September 27, 2008

That's What Ritz Are For

When I told my mom that I was spending a beautiful Saturday afternoon kneading (and kneading and kneading) dough to make homemade crackers, she good naturedly reminded me that they do still sell crackers in the grocery store- love you Mom! I was a little skeptical myself when I saw this month's Daring Bakers challenge was Lavash crackers- I mean all that work when Aisle 7 at Von's teeming with cracker variety? But, that's just the kind of thinking that kept me out of the kitchen for so long and now I'm finding how fun and rewarding it is to make even basic staples, like crackers, yourself. In actuality, this challenge was really simple and so much fun! I opted for the non-gluten free recipe and used whole wheat flour. For the toppings I used kosher salt, dried thyme, and paprika- I also kneaded some of the thyme into the dough.

I was a little conservative when it came to rolling out this dough, the end result was more toasted pita than crispy cracker, but still totally delicious. Next time I will try rolling it out much thinner and baking it on my pizza stone. For the spread, I made a vegan version of Smitten Kitchen's White Bean & Roasted Red Pepper Dip.

It was delicious with the lavash and I love the gorgeous orange/red color! Ritz aside, I loved this challenge and will definitely be making homemade lavash more often. See ya Aisle 7!

White Bean & Roasted Red Pepper Dip
**Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1 15oz can white beans
1 cup roasted red pepper, drained
2 cloves of garlic
Juice from one small lemon
Kosher salt & fresh ground pepper

Process everything in a food processor or blender until desired consistency.

** I omitted the 3 oz cream cheese from the original recipe to make this dip vegan.

September 23, 2008

Hey Cutie

How do you make a cake cute? Take these adorable italian plums,

Nestle them into a soft batter made with light brown sugar, and fragrant cardamom.

And you've got yourself this week's TWD, Dimply Plum Cake.

This might me the cutest cake I've ever made. I've always been a sucker for dimples.

September 21, 2008

Love The One You're With

Tap, tap, tap. Do you hear that? That's the sound of fall tapping on your shoulder. Of course if you go into any Target or grocery store, the tapping is a little less subtle. I mean come on, summer is barely over and yet apparently its practically Halloween! I friend of mine even spied boxes of Christmas decorations landing on the shelves at Lowes! What on earth is the rush? Don't get me wrong, I love an over commercialized holiday as much as then next guy but can we not just enjoy right now?! Soft, slightly cool breezes, leaves starting to change, this is good stuff we are rushing past. Why not sit back, relax, have a pear. Or perhaps a Pear Tart.

This variation of Dorie Greenspan's Apple Tourney Tart takes advantage of early fall pears in a sweet hazelnut crust. It is the perfect way to celebrate summer giving way to fall. So put down that egg nog latte and get to work enjoying what right now has to offer!

September 16, 2008

Sweet Jeopardy

Danger has a new name and it is Chocolate Chunkers. You know you're in trouble when 75% of the recipe is some form of chocolate. In an effort to decrease the amount of time between these babies coming out the oven and me packing them up to pawn off on my co-workers I waited until the last minute on Sunday to this week's TWD. I had a half a cookie you know, for quality control purposes, and was immediately struck with the urge to eat the entire batch!

They are the sinfully delicious love child of brownie and cookie and they will reduce your willpower to rubble! I used a combination of 62% chocolate chunks and some adorable white/semi-sweet swirl chips and opted out of the nuts and dried fruit. I mean why take up valuably cookie real estate with raisins and peanuts when there is so much gooey chocolate to sink your teeth into! Chocoholics Unite!

September 13, 2008

Mamma Mia Grill Your Pizza

Don't be afraid. Plan ahead, be prepared, have a backup plan, and most importantly, do not, under any circumstances, panic! Heed these words and you will succeed. Well, at least in grilling a pizza!

I was skeptical at first. I mean, soft raw dough on a piping hot grill grate? I was so sure it would fall right through I had Round Table on speed dial. But after reading Heidi's Pizza Post, I decided to go for it. I'm so glad I did because it was so much fun and it really worked! I used Deb's recipe for the dough as a guideline, I doubled it and replaced half of the flour with whole wheat. It was my first attempt at homemade pizza dough and it was so simple I will never use store-bought again! I rolled it out a little thicker than I normally would to promote stability, and formed 2 oval crusts. I prepared the sauce and all of the toppings ahead of time, knowing that when the grill was up to heat it would be a race to the finish.

We grilled some italian sausage and portabello mushrooms along with our "indoor pizza staples," onion, red and green peppers, and pepperoni. Once your grill is up to heat, take a calming breath, and go for it!

September 8, 2008

Mathematically Challenged

It wasn't until 5th grade that all the trouble began. I don't know how it happened or why, but from that day on I was mathematically challenged. Percents confounded algebra was gibberish, and geometry well, you can just forget it. I got by with a lot of hard work and frustrated tutors but boy was I glad when I took my last final for my last math class in college. Lucky for me the pythagorean theorum doesn't come up to often on film sets. Imagine my dismay when I realized that pursuing my love for baking would reveal my dirty little secret- I stink at anything that involves numbers!

I read the recipe for this week's TWD, Chocolate Malted Whopper Drops, very thoroughly and everything was going fine until I got to the part about the chopped whoppers. The recipe called for, "2 cups (6 ounces) chocolate-covered malted milk balls." Did that mean take 2 cups of whoppers and then chop them up? Or, chop whole whoppers until you have 2 cups of whopper pieces? It sure seemed like a lot of whopper chopping at the time, and it was only when I dumped the whole 2 cups in that realized my mistake. So how does the story of my Really Whoppery Chocolate Malted Whopper Drops end?

They were actually pretty tasty. To make up for my overzealous whopper chopping, I left out the 6 ounces of chocolate chips. The cookies were soft and not overly sweet, and a little chewy in parts. I think this recipe would be great with heath bar the right amount of course.

September 7, 2008

In my line of work, there is often no greater luxury than eating while sitting down. All week long it's a constant struggle to eat healthy meals while running from stage to stage, trying not to spill something on myself and to not talk with my mouth full when setting background or answering my walkie. All this makes breakfast on the weekends extra special, something I look forward to and plan out in my head while I'm praying that my toast doesn't pop up while we are rolling.

This weekend's breakfast options were sponsored by all the spare fruits and vegetables laying around the house. Overripe bananas left over from last weekend's movie night sundaes became banana bread.

A bowl full of unused grilled pizza toppings from last night (more on that later) yielded herb and vegetable scrambled eggs.

Banana Bread
adapted from two recipes on Orangette
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
2 large eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract

For topping:
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375F. Spray a loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine eggs with mashed bananas. Add flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and vanilla, and mix well. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan. Combine topping ingredients in a small bowl and sprinkle even over the top of the batter. Bake for 35-40 minutes.

Herb & Veggie Scramble
Chop up any vegetables you like. I used onion, red and green pepper, and mushroom.
Saute the veggies in olive oil, season generously with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, italian seasoning and fresh thyme. Saute the vegetables in olive oil, adding any seasoning you like and cook on low until peppers are softened and onions translucent. In a separate bowl whisk eggs with a few tablespoons of milk, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture over vegetables and stir gently with a wooden spoon or spatula until eggs are cooked to desired doneness.

Next weekend can't get here fast enough- there's a pear french toast recipe I'm dying to try!

September 2, 2008

Cookie Nirvana

I admit I was skeptical. Chunky peanut butter and oatmeal chocolate chipsters? The word overkill comes to mind. I was seriously considering scaling back on this week's TWD recipe. I asked quality control (the husband) and can you guess what he said?

Oatmeal peanut butter chocolate chip cookies! Why that's all the best cookies rolled into one! Of course they are going to be great!" And they really were. Moist and crunchy, salty and sweet, how could I have doubted their inherent perfection? I used low fat (ha ha, you do what you can) crunchy peanut butter and ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips and cut the recipe in half. I need 60 cookies like I need a hole in my head. These cookies will definitely make future appearances in my cookie jar!