Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Festival of Sail

The tall ships came to San Diego this past weekend. We had seen them a couple years back, but they totally changed the format of the event this year. You used to be able to walk around the ships but not on them for free. Which was perfect. You could see everything, you felt like you were there. Not so much this year. It was all the same boats, but you really couldn't get close to them at all unless you purchased the passport- $20 admission for each person. We weren't really interested in it enough to do that, so we tried to see what we could scope out from the shore!
And discovered some even more interesting and fun things about San Diego Harbor. (Modern sailboat in the foreground, tall ship in the background of this picture.) I suppose that having a sailboat of your own would allow you to see these historic ships from an even more interesting angle. Unfortunately, we don't have a sailboat or friends with one, but they are fun to watch from the shore, also!San Diego has been working on keeping the Embarcadero area upkept, which is the area where the tall ships were docked. This is also the place where cruise ships take off, and if you are on a cruise that docks in San Diego for the day, this is probably the place that you would choose to get off the boat and walk around. They have added some neat artwork to the parks near the harbor. The statue in this picture is a huge replica of that famous photo from WWII. It's big! I don't know any of the specifics, but I thought this photo might help you get an idea: And this one shows you what it looks like up close. It was cute, couples were posing in this same position to have their photos taken in front of the statue.
There was also a bronze collection showing soldiers watching Bob Hope. It is great to see this kind of thing in San Diego which is home to so many military families. We are truly grateful for the sacrifices that they make daily so we can enjoy this way of life. We enjoyed these parts of San Diego that are here all of the time more than even the ships this year. So hopefully we'll get to take you by this area the next time you are in town. I am sure you would like it as well!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Coming soon!

Gah!! I know that I am terribly behind and I have so much I want to share with you! I have been spending all my time baking and none sharing it!

I also have some fun "about San Diego" excursions to share. We had a beautiful walk around the bay over the weekend, and I have some great pictures to show you! I just have to get them off of the camera and on to the computer!

Thanks for your patience... it will be rewarded soon! In the meantime. You might enjoy:

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Roasted Tomatoes and Whole-Wheat Flatbread

I am not a fan of sun-dried tomatoes. However I decided to take a little of my own advice and try making something on my own if I don't like it. Maybe it's really great, and I just don't like it because I had a couple bad experiences with over processed products. I had beautiful grape tomatoes on hand. I haven't bought grape tomatoes for months. I think I overdosed on them a while back while we were having a million salads. I really like them, but I have been buying roma and tomatoes on the vine lately. These little guys just seemed like more work than they were worth. After an appropriate separation period, I guess I was ready to have them back in my life, as they caught my eye again last weekend. It's amazing to me how perfectly waxy they look raw. Nice, firm texture. Love it when produce is at its peak.
After quickly halved and tossed in olive oil, they were ready to lay out and roast.
My little sunbathing beauties were getting their tan from the oven, 225 degrees for a little over 2 hours. They smelled fantastic while baking.
In the meantime, I had made this whole wheat dough on Sunday because I couldn't find any good-looking pita or lavosh at the grocery store. I couldn't stomach the idea of spending $4 on a package of pita that already looked hard. I wanted whole wheat, I wanted healthy, I wanted fresh. The only option was to make it myself. Basically the same recipe as my pizza dough, and pretty much the same process. I was worried because my dough seemed a little dense. For me, this needed minimal kneading, but a nice long rise time. Sometimes the rise time does what kneading can't. The fermentation process smoothed out this dough and it came together beautifully. I used a pizza cutter and cut the dough into about 10 pieces. Then I rolled each into a small ball.
Then press the ball flat into a disk and roll it out paper thin.Pick it up gently and drop it onto a large skillet coated with olive oil spray. Sprinkle with kosher salt if you like.Cook over medium heat, browning on both sides. Basically like cooking a tortilla, but they are thicker, definitely bread.
Enjoy the bread with hummus, Italian white bean dip, pesto, or use as bread for wrap sandwiches. And just like that, my tomatoes were done. Given that it was late night, I haven't tried them yet, but I think I will use them in salads or into a sauce while cooking meat, supposedly they are great to snack on. They are resting in a little olive oil in the fridge right now. More to come on where they end up!Whole-Wheat Flatbread Pita Dough
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour or King Arthur white whole wheat flour
1 cup of all purpose flour
2 teaspoons of instant yeast, or 1 pkg active dry yeast
1/2 cup white wine
1/2-3/4 warm water
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt

If using active dry yeast, proof the yeast in the warm wine/water mixture using the smaller quantity. Once proofed and foamy, transfer the bowl of a stand mixer. Continue by adding all ingredients except salt. If using instant yeast : Combine all ingredients with the lower quantity of water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. If the dough looks dry, add the additional water a little bit at a time with the mixer running. Add the salt once the dough pulls together. After a shaggy ball has formed, switch to the dough hook attachment and knead for about 5-10 minutes. No need to overknead, dough will not look smooth. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl or sealable bag. Leave on the counter to rise for about 2 hours. Refrigerate overnight. Remove from the fridge and let come to room temperature. Cut into about 8-10 pieces and roll into balls. (about the size of a plum to an orange) If dough is resisting forming a cohesive ball. cover the balls with a towel and let stand for about 30 minutes. Once ready, press down with flour and roll out as thin as possible. Cook in a large skillet sprayed with olive oil over a medium flame until browned on both sides. Stack finished breads between two towels to prevent them from drying out. Note: Flatbreads will not pop like commercial pita, so if you want to use them for sandwiches, wrap your finished breads around the filling instead of trying to split them in half.

Shredded Chicken Tacos and Tortilla Soup

Okay, I didn't take any pictures of this, because I didn't realize that it was going to turn out so good! I wanted to share though, because it was a pretty easy and healthy dinner, and it was something totally different for us! I wish that I would have taken some pictures, and I am sure that I will the next time. I will hopefully describe it well enough that you can try it yourself!

3 half chicken breasts with skin and bone in
1 yellow onion, sliced in chunky slices
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, shredded
1 fresh lime, quartered
1 box (4 cups) chicken broth
Spices: Cumin, Ground Coriander, Chili Powder, and Cayenne Powder

In your largest pot heat 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil over a medium to high flame. Wash the chicken and pat dry. Place the chicken in the pot, skin side down to brown. Brown for about 10-15 minutes adding the onion, shallot, and garlic while that is cooking. Sprinkle the backs of the chicken breasts with all of the seasonings, generously with the cumin, coriander and chili powder, but just lightly with the cayenne, it's spicy! Once the chicken is browned, flip the pieces over and sprinkle the tops with the same seasonings. Brown the other sides for about 5 minutes, then add the 1/2 of the lime juice and chicken broth and cover. Bring to a boil, then cook at a high simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the onions are soft and translucent. (About 30 minutes) Remove the chicken breasts from the mixture and pull of the meat and transfer it into a medium bowl. Discard the bones and skin. Shred the meat with two forks. Add the shredded carrot to the broth and keep simmering while you shred the chicken. Add 1/4 of the chicken back to the broth for the soup. To the remaining chicken, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and the 4 seasonings to taste. Add a little bit of the broth to moisten the meat. Skim the broth for any pieces of skin, and discard. Serve the shredded chicken for tacos or over salad. Spoon the soup into bowls and top with tortilla strips, avocado, cilantro and/or scallions. Serve with the remaining lime wedges.

There are probably those out there that are wondering why I didn't just add water instead of adding more chicken broth. I felt that the relatively short cooking time wasn't really going to allow the water to become brothy enough, and I thought it would have tasted too bland. It was a full bodied soup, so if you have more time, I would recommend trying the water route. If you finish and your soup is just too bland, here are some ideas to thicken and spice it up:

1 can of beans, rinsed and partially pureed or whole (recommended: cannelini, black, or pinto)
Tomatoes- canned or fresh, quartered or diced
Corn- fresh or frozen (canned would probably work too, just watch the salt content) pureed here might work nicely too
Make a quick roux- melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 3 tablespoons of flour (whole wheat is really tasty in something like this) in a small saucepan. Let the mixture bubble for a minute or two without burning before you add it into the soup.

Let me know if you try any of these. I am looking forward to an excuse to make this again soon!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

CAKE cake

We celebrated another part of our anniversary this weekend. Our cake baker, CAKE was able to make us a mini one for our anniversary. It was beautiful.
Banana cake and chocolate truffle layer. I would love the recipe for this, but I know it's so perfect as it is, I don't think that I could even try to make it at home... it would be a disappointment!
Thank you everyone for all of the wonderful birthday wishes! We had a fantastic time at Disneyland on Friday. We then had a great relaxing weekend, and can't believe that it is already Sunday evening!! Where does the time go?? Hope yours was great as well!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Summertime Lasagna

I decided the other weekend that I wanted to try to lighten up my traditional lasagna recipe for summer. These summer vegetables are so beautiful, juicy, and fragrant, I might change my recipe for good! I use Giada's recipe but I made these changes:
  • Ground turkey breast instead of ground chuck
  • 2% milk and whole wheat flour for the bechamel sauce
  • Grilled Zucchini
  • Fresh Tomato
  • Spinach
I am also interested in trying her vegetarian recipe. This worked out great for us and was so tasty.
Maybe a little bit bigger pan next time!
Comfort on a plate...

Friday, August 8, 2008

Anniversary weekend

Thought you might enjoy snippets of glimpes into our anniversary weekend spent in downtown. It's funny, our hotel had a lot of blue accents, and these two blue paint colors used throughout. With a lot of white-white. I love blue and white together!

We walked through Little Italy for a while once we got downtown. I love it there, it never gets old to me. This part of town was pretty much a dump when we first moved here. All the tall buildings are new.

How cool is it that you can see the bay down the street? I love that. This is also a sidewalk cover where there is a tree planted. Such attention to detail! Makes it special.
This Little Italy sign was the only updated thing that I can remember when we first moved here. It's still pretty cool. There is some story about Little Italy and it was supposedly founded by two fishermen that named their boats the same name and ended up getting married and living right next door to one another. I can't remember the specifics, but it was something like that! Cute history, and great food down there. There are shops too, but mostly it is just fun to walk.

Our hotel had a chalkboard... so fun. And this cool blue light. I loved it. I want one for my office! This was the view from our window. The building with the curve on top was my old EY office... how random!! Look, you can see the bay and Coronado from here in the distance!
If you are reading this, chances are you were present in La Jolla 3 years ago to witness our wedding. Thank you for being involved in our lives and helping us along this path together. We have been so lucky to have such a wonderful, supportive, and loving network of friends and family. We love you all!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Red Velvet Cupcakes

I started my research for the Red Velvet Cupcakes and decided on a mix of a couple recipes. One was from Paula Deen on the that I had actually seen her making one time. The other was from smitten kitchen. They were similar, each with a few tweaks. I used the bones of Paula's recipe, but I dressed it up a bit with some ideas from Deb and some of my own preferences.
I was interested in using cake flour, since I had it on hand and I thought it would lend to a lighter cupcake. It's hard to know what the dominant flavor in this cake is. I think it should be the cocoa, although as you know, it's not a chocolate cake.

I usually bake exclusively with olive oil, but I was worried since there aren't a lot of strong flavors in this, that it might stand out. Therefore I bought a canola oil blend that was supposed to be somewhat healthy. It worked perfectly. Here is a shot of the eggs, sugar, and oil, which you blend together to start the cake. To this you add the red food coloring. Little did I realize how much food coloring that this recipe calls for. Wow!! I was really surprised. I only had one of those kits of food coloring with the 4 small vials of color. Those have about 2 teaspoons of color in each. The recipe calls for 6 teaspoons of food coloring. As a result, my cake wasn't quite as red as it probably should have been. But it seemed pretty red to me!
Once you have the vinegar, food coloring and vanilla incorporated in the egg/sugar/oil mixture, add in the dry ingredients. I sifted my cake flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder together into a bowl. Cake flour is particularly susceptible to being really dense in the package, so it's a good idea to sift it before you measure it. Scooping and leveling off the top is the safest way to make sure that you aren't adding too much flour. My batter was really thin, which concerned me. It ended up being great. I actually had more than I could fit in my muffin tins, because I only have 12. The thin batter made for these really light and moist cupcakes.

I filled the tins with about 1/3 cup of batter. This is about 1/3 of the strength of the red the recipe called for.

And after about 20-25 minutes in a 350 degree oven, they were puffed up and ready to come out and cool. On to the frosting...

I combined 8 oz. of cream cheese and one stick of butter in a large bowl. Once softened, I beat these together with an electric mixer. Then I added about 3 cups, maybe a little more of powdered sugar. Once I got the consistency of frosting that I wanted, I put the bowl back in the fridge to chill everything down just a bit before frosting. This helps to get a nice thick swath of frosting on the cupcake.

The final product, cake + frosting was really delicious. I never really thought much about red velvet cake before, but I could see these really appealing to a wide variety of people. I kicked up the cocoa content, especially becuase I still had some wonderful organic dagoba cocoa powder on hand. I used 3 tablespoons, which was 3 times the amount that Paula specified in her recipe. I am a chocolate person, so this was perfect for me, but if you want the true to form red velvet cake, you probably could go with 2 tablespoons. So finally, here is the recipe.

Red Velvet Cupcakes (yield, about 18 cupcakes)

3 cups of cake flour

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 & 1/2 cups sugar

1 & 1/2 cups canola oil

1 cup buttermilk

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla

at least 2 and up to 6 teaspoons of red food coloring

Sift together the dry ingredients. In a stand mixer, or with an electric mixer, beat together the oil and sugar until fully incorporated. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla, vinegar, and food coloring and beat slowly until incorporated, taking care not to splash the red food coloring. Add about half of the buttermilk and half of the dry ingredients and mix to incorporate. Add the remaining half of each and mix until almost incoporated. Using a silicon spatula, fold the remaining dry ingredients into the wet until just incorporated. Using a 1/3 cup measure, pour batter into prepared muffin tins. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Cool on wire racks for at least 1 hour before icing.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz softened cream cheese

1 stick butter

3 cups to 1 pound of confectioners sugar

Cream softened butter and cream cheese together with an electric mixer. Add the sugar a cup at a time, until a thick icing forms. Chill for 20 minutes before using.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

The (cup)cakes have been baked. I couldn't help but tease, just a little. More to come tomorrow!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Blueberry Crumble Bars

So far good reviews all around for these guys from the work crowd today! I got the recipe from one of my favorite place, Smitten Kitchen. Another really nice, straightforward recipe. I love that. I very seriously considered adding one more layer, a cream cheese layer in between the bottom crust and the blueberries. I think it would have added a little bit of fun to these. However, they are awesome just this way too. Start with the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and lemon zest in a bowl. Cut in the butter in pieces until just crumbly. Then add the egg and cut that in until just moistened. I used a pastry blender. It's okay to have some really chunky pieces and some flour that isn't quite incorporated. Having the inconsistent sizes makes that really nice sandy texture that you are going for here.
Then measure about 4 cups of fresh blueberries, picking over for stems. I love my big 4 cup measuring cup for fruit pies and tarts. It always comes in handy.
Spread half of the flour mixture into the prepared pan (I just used parchment paper, my favorite). Press this down into a thin crust.
In a separate bowl mix the cornstarch, sugar, and lemon juice. Stir to combine. Then fold in the blueberries. Spread this mixture over the crust.
Top with the remaining flour mixture. I picked up handfuls and pressed them together before crumbling over the top. If your home is very hot, you might want to put the remaining half of the flour mix back in the fridge while you do the berries. This keeps the butter from melting into the other ingredients.
Bake until brown on top. This smells amazing while it is baking.
Easier to cut once cooled in the fridge. I used a pizza wheel to cut these.
Enjoy!! This makes a lot to share with your friends, so that is always encouraged. You could probably also use frozen blueberries if you can't find fresh. I would just leave them frozen until you incorporate them into the sugar, lemon and cornstarch mixture. They will bake just the same, I would think. I will get back to you on the cream cheese layer. It would have to be pretty spreadable- probably similar to the middle layer of the cheesecake recipe that I posted a while back.
On deck- Red Velvet Cupcakes... as per request... we'll see what I can come up with for these!! Happy Friday and Welcome Weekend! Hope yours is fantastic!