blue dress, 50s, Suzy Q Homemaker

daring cooks: mezze

The challenge is to prepare a Mezze (pronounced “mez-ay", although many people seem to pronounce it as "mezz”) Table including, but not limited to, homemade Pita bread and Hummus. If you’re not familiar with mezze, it’s more of a style of eating than a specific recipe or recipes. Mezze is a bunch of small dishes served all at once—sort of like the Middle Eastern version of Spanish Tapas. It can be served as appetizers before a meal, or as the meal itself.

The recipe requirements are making pita bread from scratch, and also hummus. If you can‘t eat wheat you can make the pita with an alternative flour. The trick to mezze is having a bunch of dishes that are easy to pick up and to eat with bread, and that all feature Middle Eastern flavors.

A simple mezze meal could be something like pita bread, hummus, olives, roasted almonds, and some feta cheese. If you want to be more elaborate you can add salads, other dips, cooked beans, roasted meat or fish, a variety of flatbreads, and on and on. The presentation is important as you want your mezze table to be just as appealing to the eye as it is to the stomach.

Blog checking lines: The 2010 February Daring COOKs challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid.

Some basic flavors found in Middle Eastern cooking include things like olives, lemons, chickpeas, fava beans, feta cheese, yogurt, eggplant, mint, cilantro, cloves, cumin, olive oil, beets, garlic, lentils, paprika, and tahini.

There is no special equipment necessary, though a food processor would be helpful. You’ll just need the basic bowls, baking sheets, measuring cups, etc.


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so, it was fun! i'm sorry to post late cause i've been sick. but at any rate, LOVED IT. the people i wanted to impress were impressed. and it all tasted really nice to me.
blue dress, 50s, Suzy Q Homemaker

Cherry Cordial Cupcakes

So, Cupcake Hero!! This month's special ingredient was olive oil, which, lemme tell you... I've never used it outside of sauteing and stuff like that. So this was an experience. I went and pulled some recipes together from the internet, which mostly consisted of chocolate cakes.... and tried it out.

What resulted turned out better than I could've imagined, and nothing like I planned.

Cherry Cordial Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes

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I'd originally planned on doing something with cherries and kumquats, but they just *don't* sell them near me. It's really tragic. So while I didn't get the citrusy fruity flavor I was looking for, what resulted is fabulous. Tastes wonderful. Would make again.
blue dress, 50s, Suzy Q Homemaker

failure in the kitchen!!

so while i won't divulge too many details, since it is a Daring Bakers' Challenge... i will just say this:

my kitchen sucks. for a place that i thought was pretty handy on the tool front, we are seriously lacking. our food processor is for shit. won't grind a darn thing. won't mix dough. we have like... zero space and even less available to do things (dehydrating stuff, poaching... etc).

i guess my main problem is i haven't been taught any kind of techniques except a little bit of cake baking. since that's the case, i really have no reason to wonder why i keep FAILING IN THE KITCHEN.

darkside, cookies and alcohol

Two Pina Coladas Cupcakes, Cupcake Hero Entry

i'm so excited cupcake hero is back! i mean, i came in on the tail end of it with the "Made of Awesome" cupcakes and i *still* have no idea whether they received my entry or not and... well, whatever. the past is just that because it's baa-ack. huzzah. i was so happy to find that out, despite finding it out rather late.

august's challenge ingredient was bananas. which generally lends itself to banana (nut) bread for me. which, ok, i don't *hate* it, per se. but i've been so burnt out on fruity breads with bits in them. just gets on my nerves. and i was at such a loss thereafter because, although i know there's more to bananas than banana bread, i couldn't think of anything.
except, maybe, the best smoothie flavor i've ever had outside of mango: banana pina colada. which, surprising, as i don't like coconut at all. not at all. but i was going to make it happen. a pina colada cupcake, replete with banana.

boldly, i strode into the store and bought what necessities were required for this endeavor. thankfully, living at home meant the perks of mom paying for the pineapple, bananas and the extracts, but it also meant that i was on a fixed staple budget. no fancy stuff for me, no sir.

i ran a trial run on sunday, just seeing how my flavors worked and who would eat it. 12 cupcakes in a 5 person house? lasted the half an hour it took to cool them from the oven. no frosting/icing/whatever at all. which, you know, helps because i didn't have the other necessity for my icing--cream cheese. no matter. at least they went over pretty well.

so, last night was the big run. my brother'd just set off for a vacation in japan and i knew that the cupcakes would last just a smidge longer, even if my sister came up with her daughter (the cupcakes still didn't last long. in fact, they were barely out of the pan before the first 7 were gone.). and this time, i was prepared for a double dose of pina colada goodness.

on the whole, i'd consider it a success! i'll probably still tweak the recipe here and there just in case i want a stronger flavor (i'm still looking for pineapple extract to up that sweet and tarty flavor), but on the whole, i like it. i was debating what to call it, really. it is two pina coladas: one in the cupcake and a second in the icing. but it will only fit in one hand! it could always be the drink that gives you the slip. but, you know, puns are highly overrated.

so, i present:
Two Pina Coladas
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Pictures can be found here @ flickr
blue dress, 50s, Suzy Q Homemaker

daring bakers, Bakewell Tart... Er, Pudding

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England. We were challenged with a recipe drawing from such cooks as Allan Davidson, Tamasin Day Lewis, Anton Edelmann, Jane Grigson, Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver.

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The challenge basically wanted us to at least hand make both the shortcrust pastry and the frangipane. While I don’t particularly care for pie crust, I could do that. As for the frangipane, though… we’re allergic to nuts in my house. So no frangipane (which is made with almonds). Thankfully, they did allow us to make a Victoria Sponge Cake as the frangipane replacement, so I had that as a fall back. They also left it up to us to make our own jam. I had the fruit and the time, so why not? DONE. My parents had made jam before, but I didn’t remember anything about it but picking the fruit, and then seeing a pot on the stove with a burbling goo of what used to be mulberries. So, there was a link to Jasmine’s Blackberry Pan Jam ( that I just… went to town with.

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In Conclusion:

Not bad. Since I made it twice, I know how easy it really is and will probably make it many many times in the future. And my poor ex-pat English father who likes Bakewell Tarts liked my efforts, so I consider that a double win. He’s not an easy sell on my sweets. Next time, for myself, I’ll make more jam and not try putting cream cheese with tropical fruits. Maybe with some mixed berry, if I wanted to do that.

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They seem to enjoy it!

blue dress, 50s, Suzy Q Homemaker

Daring Cooks: Gyoza, Dumplings, Potstickers

The Challenge: Chinese dumplings/potstickers (aka gyoza in Japanese)

Ok, so the last time I cooked this, it was pretty much a so-so event. My sister had come up to the house and we made a day of it. Some pork chops had been in our fridge and nobody was cooking them, even post my brother's "marinading" attempts (note to self: brother shouldn't be allowed to marinade ANYTHING. ever.) with some random beer that I'd bought and immediately disliked. So, industrious kiddies that we were (I was 22 at the time, my sister, 21), we ground up the pork in a food processor, used whatever recipes we could find and bought everything-- hoisin sauce, sesame oil, bamboo shoots. Did it up right. Rolled out the dough as thin as we could get. All said and done, we steamed a third in our rice steamer (strange contraption, didn't do what we planned, took longer to steam than necessary), fried 2/3 in our wok and basically stood on our feet for HOURS. The pork tasted funny to me, but only because I hadn't realized it was marinated in NASTY NASTY BEER. Plus, we may have gone and added too much sesame oil. But I swear it was the beer.

So, anyway. So-so memory. But I LOVE DUMPLINGS. So this challenge was a walk in the park.

It's a basic concept: a filling inside a dough wrapper, sealed, and cooked. This delicious theme runs through many cultures and is among the more popular bites at Chinese restaurants - especially dim sum. The plan was to roll out the dough to a ridiculously thin wrapper, then fill with the desired filling. I made mine by hand (which was apparently a no-no, but since I called this challenge done after I'd finished, I didn't go back and retry. Besides... I DON'T CARE.

Fillings: the beauty of the Chinese dumpling/potsticker is that the filling is very versatile. That's why there are so many different kinds of dumplings when you go to dim sum. The two most common are pork and shrimp. You can make them with other ground meats (beef, chicken...) or vegetarian (tofu, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, glass noodles, Chinese chives - oh yum!). The important thing to keep in mind is that the filling needs to "stick" to itself or else you will make your life incredibly miserable wrapping up filling that keeps falling apart. When I made mine, I filled it with what I had in the fridge: some scallion, some shredded parmigiana, some ground beef, oregano, and some egg to bind it. Very Italian Meatball-esque.

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Ok. So, that was pretty much where the recipe left off. Here's my rundown of the Collapse )

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So, next time? Probably will try some new fillings. I've gone from beer-soaked pork (worst dumplings ever... too much sesame oil, nastiest beer ever) to random ground beef. Could also, maybe, try out rolling the dough thinner. Granted, I don't like standing on my feet that long, so maybe I'll bring in my favorite little helper and her mommy again. We'll split the work effort, and boil more this time. Should turn out fine, yeah?
bread, what low carb?, foodie

Daring Bakers, Strudel

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

Preparation time
Total: 2 hours 15 minutes – 3 hours 30 minutes

15-20 min to make dough
30-90 min to let dough rest/to prepare the filling
20-30 min to roll out and stretch dough
10 min to fill and roll dough
30 min to bake
30 min to cool

my helper
Why hello, helper! We're gonna make foods!!

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In conclusion, it's not that I don't like the strudel (because I do), nor is it about what I could've done better (which is a lot). I don't like the amount of work I had to put into this to get a result. I mean, I made the strudel on an off day from work, and it took forever. As it happens, the savoury was split between me and my grandmother for dinner that day, and it barely was enough. Too much work, too little result. Would not repeat, despite the good results.

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blue dress, 50s, Suzy Q Homemaker

alas, failure in the kitchen!!

so, last night before i went to see star trek (which was awesome, by the by), i made up some fresh chocolate pasta from a recipe i found online. basically, chocolate egg noodle. the idea was sound, but i think my execution was wrong.

so, just before i left, i made up a kinda... dessert lasagna. layers of chocolate pasta interspersed with strawberry topping, pineapples, bird's custard and sweetened ricotta. made it, cooked it, went to the movie and had no time to eat it, so into the fridge it went. the idea was ambitious, possibly awesome, and a total failure.

first off, my noodles were not good. i had enough left to boil some this morning for flavor tasting. worst ever. tasted like the last of the chocolate cereal you eat when it's been in milk too long. ugh. so i try the lasagna. the noodles were waaay thin and didn't hold up, though baking did give it a better flavor (less cereal-y, more sweet). so, yeah. on the one hand, i should probably have rolled out the noodles thicker for them to work. on the other, maybe adding some flavor into the noodles (orange zest?) could take away that mealy taste.

second, strawberry topping. i think i should've gone for more fresh fruit rather than canned. fresh, i could've done a kind of banana split with this. as it was, the topping was really really wet and over-sweet. treated it like you would your tomato sauce, but, eh, not really a good plan. it probably contributed to both the noodles' breakdown, and the fact that it never 'set up' as a lasagna.

last, and possibly the worst, sweetened ricotta. i kinda bastardized it with just a tub of ricotta from the store and sugar (i saw the recipes online that said to add creme fraiche, but we really don't have that here). it may have been too wet? but in the lasagna, it was just grainy and offputting. i thought it would be a binding agent, get everything to come together, but totally not. ruined the flavor of the whole thing (which was overwhelmingly of strawberry).

highlights?? the custard did well, and probably would've bound the thing better. the pineapple was good. the pasta that was cooked and didn't break up was alright. the pieces where ricotta was missing tasted decent.

sadly, it just looked like mush on the plate. tossed the entirety (one half steam table pan!! woe!) into the trash because it made me nearly throw up. same for my granny. my mom is awesome for testing as much as she did.

to make up for such a failure, i took myself out of the kitchen. and grilled!! i ended up just doing two bone-in pork shoulder butts (boston butts) and some baby back ribs. the butt took a long time, basically past the coals' burn time, so they ended up in the oven. but oh, guys. they are so tender!!! they got rubbed with some brown sugar, curry and chili powder, salt, pepper and garlic and then wrapped in foil so they wouldn't burn. stewing in their own juices.... they are AWESOME. one of them did get a little charred, but generally, very good.

ribs went into the oven on 350 degrees Fahrenheit. same rub, just as tender. i was really hungry tonight, and it's a wonder i didn't just attack. i thought about it, but i haven't. yet. still hungry. mmmmm.

on the whole, i generally dislike barbecue, so mine'll probably stay sauceless. but it's so good!! i'm glad i grilled today. tomorrow i'm doing the same with some more ribs, some sirloin, some pork tenderloin and a fresh ham that's gonna get marinated in wine and some fruit juice tomorrow, when i get the chance. :D

*is a grilling master*
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