Sunday, December 27, 2009

Yule Loggin'......

We were blessed to be able to share in Melinda's Christmas eve tradition and thoroughly enjoyed spending time with 30 of her friends and family!  She always makes Lobster di Frivolo, which is a time honored tradition in her family.  It is, by far, fabulousity at its best!

I had been doing alot of "surfing" about the delicious treats we'd find in Paris and came across lots of information about the Bouche de Noel (Yule Log), which is served on every French table at Christmastime....I'm told not having one is equivalent to not having a turkey at Thanksgiving!

I was concerned that we wouldn't get the opportunity to enjoy this tradition since we are arriving in Paris after Christmas, so I decided to make one to take to Melinda's house for Christmas eve.  At first, I was overwhelmed with the recipes, but after doing considerable research, I realized this was something I could do IF I put all else was worth the effort.

The Bouche de Noel is a genoise cake (sponge cake) with chocolate mousse or buttercream inside and covered with chocolate ganache.  It is light, fluffy and a little rich, but not too much!

My end result looked "okay".....but there are changes I would make.  I thought my genoise cake was too dry, so I've updated the recipe to add more moisture.  I also didn't think I had enough chocolate ganache to completely cover the log, so I'm doubling the recipe the next time.

So, without further ado, here is the process that I followed (with updated recipe):

The first thing you need to do is prepare your sheet pan by spraying with Pam, the cover with parchment paper, which I buttered and coated in sugar (it's something I learned from Mom and it really does keep the cake from sticking).

The next thing you need to do is beat the eggs.....the recipe I had called for 4 eggs, but I think you'd do better with 4 eggs and 2 egg yolks.  You'll need to beat them for 5 to 7 minutes until they are thick and pale and have doubled (or tripled!) in bulk.  Then I added my sugar (3/4 cup), 1 tablespoon at a time, then add 1 tablespoon of good quality vanilla.  Take the bowl off the mixer and fold in 3/4 cup of sifted cake flour, 1/4 cup at a time. 
Then drizzle 5 tablespoons of melted butter (cooled a little) and carefully fold that in.  Pour the mixture into the pan and bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes....make sure it doesn't overcook....that's when it really gets dry!

While that was cooking, I started making my chocolate mousse filling.  I used Martha's recipe, which can be found here.  You start by melting the chocolate (semi-sweet) in a glass bowl set in the top of a pot with water at a slow simmer. 
Then you wisk in the egg yolks and set aside.  Put the egg whites in the mixer with the cream of tarter and whisk until they have stiff peaks.....fold in about a third of them to the chocolate mixture, then fold the rest.  Clean the mixer bowl and beat the heavy cream until it holds soft peaks and fold that in....then set in the fridge to chill for about an hour. 
Don't forget that cake in the oven!!!

Once the cake came out of the oven, I spread a clean dish towel over the counter, sprinkled with confectioner's sugar and turned out my cake onto it....make sure you loosen then edges of the cake from the pan first!  Then, using the towel to help, roll up the cake and let it cool.  Now for the ganache!

This part is EASY!  Again, I used Martha's recipe, but I suggest doubling won't need it all, but it will give a better coating than what I had. 

Chop up the bittersweet chocolate into pretty small pieces, then heat the heavy cream until it just comes to a simmer.  Pour the cream over the chocolate, let it sit for about 5 minutes, then whisk to blend.....set it aside to chill and get back to that cake! 

Time to fill it!  Carefully unroll the cake and spread the chilled mousse over the top to about an inch from the sides and bottom.....roll.....back to the fridge!  Once it's chilled, cut off about a 6 inch piece and trim the ends at an angle.......coat the larger piece in ganache, add the smaller piece, then coat that with the ganache and VOILA.....Bouche de Noel! 

You can decorate it any way you like.....from what I've seen on the internet, France has gotten quite creative with the ones they make now....most don't even resemble a log!  At the last minute I decided to brave making the meringue mushrooms.  They were also easier than I thought....but make LOTS....some just won't turn out quite right!

Again, I admit that I was a little intimidated at first....ok, alot intimidated.  But I'm glad I did was delicious!  I still hope that there are still some in the windows of the boulangeries in Paris.  If so, I'll let you know how they taste! 

Friday, December 18, 2009

Loafin' Around.....

When the cold weather sets in, it always takes me back to my childhood comforts.....the flannel nightgowns trimmed in eyelet lace that my mother made for me, the soups on the stove, the fresh cannister of cocoa that always appeared in the pantry ready for cold, windy days, the cans of condensed milk ready for snow cream......and meatloaf!

I have to admit that I wasn't always a fan.....I'd have rather she used it to make plump, juicy hamburgers!  The meatloaf my Mom made was full of oats, breading and lots of onions topped with lots of ketchup....and I've never been a ketchup fan!

Well, the cold weather has set in and it seems that meatloaf has also conjured up some memories for Dennis.  He was craving meatloaf!  After requesting this entree (?) several times, I finally caved in and decided to serve it way!

I try very hard to stay away from carbohydrates (most of the time I fail!), so I went to work trying to figure out how I could pull off this meatloaf without it being so dry......and without the globs of ketchup (which lasts much longer around our house now that the kids are on their own).

I had some ground beef, but decided to make a run to the store for some ground pork to add to it.  I also scouted out what I had in the vegetable drawer of the fridge.....mushrooms, tomatoes, green onions and roasted red peppers from the pantry....score!  The vegetables should help keep the meatloaf moist versus using oatmeal!

Now....what to do about the ketchup!  While at the store scouting out the ketchup section, I noticed chili sauce....lots more flavor and not so sweet......score #2.

I used my food processor to grind up the veggies semi-fine and added them to the meat along with an egg. 
Then I formed it into a loaf on top of parchment paper on my baking sheet.....baked it until it was somewhat firm (nothing worse than firm, dried out meatloaf!) and served it up.  It was a hit!

Since I made so much, I decided to take half and freeze it.....NOT a score!

 There was plenty for dinner.......but, as I found out later, not enough for a meatloaf sandwich the next day (not for me, mind you.....remember, I TRY to eat bread only on special weekends at Melinda's cabin and holidays!)

Since I'm not so much a meatloaf lover, I wasn't quite sure it was a hit until it was got rave reviews.....along with requests for more!  I have to admit, for meatloaf it was awesome.....the best I've ever had!

Sunday, December 6, 2009


I've been making omelettes for years! I try to keep my carbohydrates down, so it's really the perfect breakfast for me. So......last night I couldn't sleep and stayed up late watching a PBS program: Julia Child Memories: Bon Appetit!. I really was expecting 2 hours of Julia's shows, which I had been wanting to see again. Now, you do get to see portions of her shows, but it's really an info-merical to sell the DVDs of her shows, while at the same time raising monies for the PBS network (I'm all for that! I love PBS).
When Julia did the "omelette" segment, I thought, "How interesting can this be? I already know how to make omelettes." But.....I was wrong. I learned several little things that could make my omelettes a little easier to make and ensure they always come out right, because sometimes they just don't.....then I tell everyone they're eating scrambled eggs!
After sipping on a cup of coffee this morning, I decided to try my hand at her techniques! Guess what!!! They were perfect.......high heat (I always cooked mine slowly).....add a tad (I think that's what she said)of butter and let melt, add two eggs beaten with 1 teaspoon of water, let it sit for a few seconds, then move the pan in a circle until it's just about set....then move the pan up and down on the burner until it gathers in one corner......flip the omelette upside down on the plate and voila!
Then she did an omelette buffet with all kinds of fillings. She had spinach, mushrooms, fried liver (?) and lots of veggies and cheese. I usually use cheddar, but she used swiss cheese. This morning's omelettes had swiss cheese, sauteed shallots and mushrooms with bacon on top.I also made some hashbrowns for Dennis. .Great way to start the day!

Here's the video of her making an omelette:

Thursday, November 26, 2009


For Melinda's birthday, I made her a carrot cake....but not just ANY carrot cake! I made her an Ooey Gooey Carrot Cake!
I had made an Ooey Gooey Butter cake one time before, and there are so many variations that I knew there had to be one for Carrot Cake. I found a couple, but as always, I have to put my own spin on it. They called for adding carrots and pecans to the topping, which just didn't sit right with me. The topping is like the cream cheese icing on a regular carrot cake....and we don't put carrots and pecans in that!
Anyway, my neighbor and friend, Carol, had a taste of it and as Thanksgiving got closer, she asked me to make one for her family Thanksgiving dinner.....a chance to cook? I'm in!!!
You need a springform pan, which I buttered then coated with sugar (Cola Tip there...cakes come out clean EVERY time...and the sugar and butter a nice candied coating on the cake, making it very easy to ice without a crumb coat). Then you mix together a cake mix....but not just ANY cake mix! The recipes on the internet called for a spice cake....what? I used the Duncan Hines DECADENT Carrot Cake mix. It comes with a packet with dried carrots and raisins in it. Anyway, put the cake mix and the packet contents into the mixer....I added about a cup of chopped pecans. Then add one stick of melted butter and one will be about the consistency of cookie dough. Put the dough into the pan and, using your fingers, spread it to coat the bottom of the pan.>Next you need to make the "icing" or "topping". You mix 1 pound of confectioners sugar, 1 stick of butter, 1 8 ounce package of cream cheese, 1 teaspoon of vanilla and 2 eggs in the blender (didn't take a pic of this! Dang!) and pour it over the top of the cake mix mixture.
Bake it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 40 to 50 minutes. The center will be a little jiggly, but it will be nicely browned on the top.This is one recipe you have to promise me you'll try....take it to your company picnic...but make sure to take plenty of copies of the recipe!!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Let's get cooking!

Happy Thanksgiving Eve! If you ask me, the day before Thanksgiving is more work than the day of......running around to get last minute ingredients and trying to get everything organized so that the cooking will go smoothly. The day of is a piece of cake! It's just cooking!
But some of the cooking actually does start the day before. In fact this recipe must be started at least 24 hours before! This year we're sharing Thanksgiving at Melinda's house, so I don't get to make everything I normally make, but I'll share the making of the things I am cooking....or not in Cranberry Relish! No cooking is involved there!
I grew up eating the jellied cranberry sauce and had absolutely no idea that the real thing could be so much more delicious....then Diana Brown moved here from Detroit and her mother opened up my culinary world. She cooked things we didn't really make here in Virginia and one of the first I tasted was her Cranberry's been at my table ever since. It's really simple.....
I took 2 bags of fresh cranberries and chopped them up in the food processor.Then I added the juice of one juicy orange (or two not so juicy oranges)
and 1/2 cup of granulated sugar. I processed the mixture until everything was fine and chopped evenly.
Put into a covered contained and set in the the sugar and orange juice reduce the bitterness of the cranberries, you may need to adjust the sugar. I usually save about a half cup of cranberries, just in case I got it a little too sweet. You never can tell....depends on the sweetness of the cranberries you're using.
Well, I have to get up and get moving.......I'll be back later with more Thanksgiving Prep though, ok? See you later!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Classic and an Update.......

I was thumbing through my cookbook to make sure I have everything I need for our Thanksgiving Feast, which we're sharing at Melinda's house this year. I guess YOU could guess that I watch alot of food shows, right? Well, one of my favorites is America's Test Kitchen on the PBS channel.
Well, I watched one show this weekend about their "flip" on Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes.....which is a MUST HAVE at our Thanksgiving table. Typically, you roast your head of garlic in the oven, right? And you boil your potatoes, right? Well, this completely cuts out those two steps AND adds tons more's the concept:
1. You mince 12 cloves of fresh garlic and saute on medium low in 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 teaspoon sugar until they just start to turn the color of straw.
2. Then add 1.2 cup water and 1 1/2 cups milk.
3. Then add 3 pounds of russet potatoes which have been sliced into 1.4 inch slices.
4. Turn down heat to low and let cook for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until soft.
5. Once they're cooked, mash them right in the pot, add 12 tablespoons (I know!!!) of butter and an additional 1/2 cup of milk and VOILA!!!
The concept is to not lose the flavor of the potatoes by boiling them in the water AND intensify the garlic flavor in the potatoes by cooking them with the garlic. I just love this idea.....and I'm changing how I make my garlic mashed potatoes this year....I'll come back and add photos later!
Note: You can find the basics to the recipe here and the full recipe by signing up there. And here's a picture of their potatoes (only because I hate blogs with no pictures and I don't have any yet...again, I'll add them later.

One thing I'm NOT changing is my dressing/stuffing. I can't count how many times I've thought about adding sausage, nuts, apples, etc., but once I smell that turkey cooking, I can't imagine eating it without my classic stuffing/dressing recipe. Here's the recipe straight from my own's just like my Mom's, except that I DID add leeks (I love them!):
1 pounds dense country white bread (these days I get my freshly made bread cubes already baked at Farm the bakery department!!
6 tablespoons butter (plus additional for greasing baking dish) (I also think I up this every year for flavor....can't resist!)
2 leeks, halved lengthwise and diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 1/2 cups celery diced
2 to 3 teaspoons dried sage (more if you're using fresh)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme or marjarom (or use 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning)
3 cups turkey or chicken stock
3 eggs
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Toast the bread cubes on a baking sheet for 25 minutes, stirring until lightly browned and crisp, stirring once or twice. Transfer them to a large bowl and set aside. Butter a 9 x 13 baking dish and set aside.
Melt 6 tablespoons butter in a skillet and lightly saute the celery, onions and leeks...about 7 minutes. Then add the herbs, mix well and add to the bread cubes. Add the stock 1 cup at a time until the bread is moist, but not soupy.
Note: At this point you can cover and refrigerate until time to bake for your dinner.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Whisk the eggs, pour over the prepared mixture, then pour into the baking dish and cover with foil. Bake for 25 minutes, then remove foil and continue to bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned on the top.
Note: I usually make an extra large batch of this because I HAVE to have some stuffing in my turkey. Until I can add pictures of this process, here is a copy of last year's turkey!
Check back in a couple of days for this pictures of the making of this stuffing....

Friday, November 20, 2009

Prime Time!

In our family, we're pretty specific as to what proteins we eat at our particular holiday meals. Of course, we have turkey at Thanksgiving and prime rib at Christmas....tenderloin for New Years....ham at Easter! With the holidays just around the corner, I decide it was time to start posting about the foods I love to eat during the holidays. AND since prime rib is on sale at Farm Fresh right now, it seemed appropriate to start with that! So, here we go with Prime Rib 101:
I do NOT normally recommend purchasing a boneless rib roast, as roasting with the bones adds flavor, but tonight we had a boneless prime rib, which meant I'd have to work a little harder to add extra flavor!

I started off with making slits in the top of the prime rib....down far enough to add portions of cloves of garlic.

Then I drizzled the top with extra virgin olive oil and poked the garlic pieces I'd cut into the slits...
...add salt and pepper.
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and bake for 1 hour (30-45 minutes for pieces under 5 pounds), then turn the overn down to 325 degrees and cook until your meat thermometer reads 135 degrees (medium rare).

I added some fingerling potatoes to the pan so they would reap the flavor from the roast.
While you're enjoying your meal, you'll get "bonus bites" when you have a slice that includes one of the garlic cloves......SCORE! If you're planning to make a prime rib during the holidays, check out this great website for added information on making yours the best ever! I hope your holidays are the best ever!!!

I also made some horseradish sauce to go with the meat.....delish!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Soups on.....again!

We have the form of a nor'easter! It's rainy and windy....and chilly! Seemed like a perfect day to make some clam chowder!
The only thing was that I'd wished I'd thought of it yesterday......when it wasn't raining.So, I headed up to Harris Teeter to get a few things that I didn't have.....which was most of what I needed. I bought:
3 cans of minced clams (believe it or not, the Chicken of the Sea brand is awesome!)
1 box of chicken stock (I use Wolfgang Puck's organic chicken stock....buttery and delicious!)
1 bottle clam juice
1 package low fat, center cut bacon
1 leek
3 ears of fresh corn (and it was November?)
3 medium sized Yukon gold potatoes
1 pint heavy cream

So....that means that the only thing I had at home was the celery. How's that for a not-so-well-stocked pantry?

I rarely use a recipe for my soups.....I just dump it in. It's really hard to mess up soup, but I'll do my best to give you accurate measurements of what I did today.

First, I diced 1/2 of the package of bacon and fried it and set it aside.
I wiped out all of the bacon fat....just too heavy for this soup to me. Then I added 1 tablspoon butter and 1 teaspoon of olive oil.......add the leeks and celery and cook to soften.

While that was going on, I cut the corn off of the cob

and diced up the potatoes into rather small cubes. Once the leeks and celery are done, add everything.....the bacon, corn, potatoes, leeks, celery..

..and add the clam juice, clams, then chicken broth (just enough to cover). Simmer on low until the potatoes have softened. Then add the heavy cream and VOILA.......Clam and Corn Chowder!

NOTE: The bottom of my dutch oven is not dirty....promise. It is just well worn. That, my dears, is my most fave LeCrueset dutch oven. Dennis gave it to me several years ago for was all that I wanted. It has never left my stove since then. It stays on the stove and I use it all the time. They make versions now that are alot less expensive and are equally as good....I've bought Shelby one and as her girlfriends get married, they get one, too. I love it more than I love my knives.....and I love my knives!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Channeling Julia.....

So..., we have tickets and we have our place to stay. We are really going to Paris! When we first started planning this trip it was my goal to try cooking lots of great French dishes in anticipation of cooking some of our meals while there. I've tried a few, but I'm nowhere near where I had hoped to be!
So this morning Shelby called wanting some ideas on cooking a pot roast for her 86 degree day in San Antonio (hey, that's cool for Texas!).
After our "chat", I headed for the grocery store in anticipation of making a pot roast, too. Then I remembered Paris.....and my hopes of conquering some great French recipes to cook while we're there. So I decide to try beef bourguignon! Because I made this decision AFTER heading to the grocery store, we did have to make an additional trip for things I had forgotten.

Julia's recipe is labled "difficult", but it really isn't.....there are just so many steps...and for my first time out, I didn't want to skip any.
The recipe calls for slab bacon, which you slice into 1/4 inch slices and then cut those slices into 1 1/2 inch squares.

Then you boil them in a 1 1/2 quarts of water (it really doesn't take that much water though!), drain them,

and dry them off very well !

Brown them in a tablespoon of olive oil. While they are browning, I cut my beef, onions and carrots.
I removed the bacon, added the beef (in several crowding!) and browned it.
I added the browned beef to the bacon, then browned the onions and carrots.
Put the meat and veggies back into the dutch oven with the onions and carrots, then sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of flour.....stir to coat.Put into a 400 degree oven for 4 minutes.....stir, then put back into the oven for an additional 4 minutes. Add 3 cups of red wine and 1 1/2 cups of beef stock. Then add the herbs, which consist of two cloves of garlic, 4 tablespoons of chopped parsley, 3 tablespoons of thyme (I just put in 6 or 7 stems) 1 tablespoons of tomato paste and 2 small bay leaves......

stir and bring to a slow simmer on the stove. Then put in the oven and adjust the temperature to keep it at a slow simmer for 2.5 to 3 hours or until the meat is tender. While the meat and veggie mixture is braising, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a saucepan and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.....this keeps the butter from burning. Brown approximately 18 to 24 pearl onions (Julia leaves the skins on....I took them off), remove and then brown 1 pound of mushrooms quartered.

Once the meat and veggie mixture comes out of the oven,

strain the meat and veggies, saving the sauce into a saucepan, >
which I simmered to reduce until thick enough to coat the back of your spoon.

Add the mushrooms and pearl onions to the meat.....
and pour the reduced sauce over them and simmered for an additional few minutes. Voila! I
served Dennis' over wild rice with crusty bread. I ate mine without the rice. I have to tell you this is a fabulous recipe! The next time I think I'll reduce the amount of wine to 2 was just a little too rich!

I hope you'll try this recipe. It may seem intimidating, but it's really not that difficult. It's just time consuming.
You can find Julia's recipe here: Click Here