When I was little, I had a restaurant. It was only open on Sundays and only opened for my mother. It had a fancy name, Chez a la Me and fancy décor. My sister and I hung a Strawberry Shortcake sheet set from the ceiling. When you were in front of the sheet set, you were in the front of the house and were whether a waiter or a hostess. It was easy to tell the difference between the two because not only did we have name tags bearing a man’s name (which was weird I know) but when you were the waiter, you were forced to don a construction paper mustache.

The back of the house contained the crazy chef, which was always me. I would often shout during the cooking process at my imaginary kitchen staff. I was heavily into Yan Can Cook and though screaming was part of the culinary process. We had a full menu, written in crayon, complete with all the fancy names of dishes I heard Julie Childs say; however, we were often out of everything except scrambled eggs. Often times they came with cheese and sometimes they remained un-scrambled and came in a buttery toast frame instead. That was our most famous dish.

We were very popular. Every table in our restaurant was taken, the minute we got my mom out of bed and sat her in it. Chez a la Me was open for many years. Eventually the décor changed, the mustaches were left behind, and the food got much better, but through the years, our mother and only customer (of course non-paying) remain constant. So thanks mom for sitting at our table and just as I promised at 8, I will never tack a sheet into the ceiling again unless we are building a fort.

Mother’s Day Brunch

This year for Mother’s Day, I opened the restaurant one more time and cooked for two important people in my life. And unlike the early years of Chez a la Me, the food was not only edible it was great. The recipes we served are listed below.

Fruit BruschettaFruit Brus

From the fabulous blog The Way The Cookie Crumbles; Her blog is an inspiration and her comparison posts are the greatest. You must check it out.

Makes 16 bruschetta

16 ½-inch-thick slices crusty Italian or French bread
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1½ tablespoons sugar
1½ tablespoons cinnamon, or to taste
4 Kiwis
2 banana, cut into fine dice
10 large strawberries, cut into fine dice

2 tablespoons of orange juice
3 to 4 tablespoons vanilla yogurt
honey for drizzling

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Arrange bread slices in one layer in a shallow baking pan and bake in middle of oven until golden, about 10 minutes. Brush toasts with butter on one side. Toasts may be made 1 week ahead and kept in an airtight container.

In a small bowl stir together 1 tablespoon sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over buttered side of each toast. Broil toast about 5 inches from heat under preheated broiler 30 seconds, or until tops are bubbling, and cool.

In a bowl stir together fruit, the orange juice and remaining ½ tablespoon sugar and mound about 1 tablespoon on each toast. Top each toast with about 1 teaspoon yogurt and drizzle with honey.

I did not eat these because of my texture issues with bananas but everyone who did really enjoyed them. The thought the flavors complimented each other very well and it was a semi-healthy way to start the meal.Hash

Potato Hash

This recipe comes from my boyfriend Tyler Florence. It was part of a whole recipe for salmon hash with a poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. The potato hash was perfect. The potatoes were crisp and the onion and the red pepper gave them dish some complexity. I made have also added some crumbled bacon to the mix.

About 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 russet potatoes, rinsed in water and cut into large dice

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 onions, thinly sliced

1 red bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 green onions, finely chopped

3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Pinch cayenne pepper

Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat and add olive oil. Once heated add the potatoes and shallow-fry for about 8 minutes until evenly browned on all sides. Remove the potatoes with a slotted spoon and place onto a paper towel-lined plate. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a large bowl.

Remove most of the oil, leaving only a couple of tablespoons. Place over medium heat and add the sliced onions, sliced peppers and garlic and allow to caramelize. Add the green onions, thyme leaves, paprika and cayenne pepper. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste, and stir to combine. Add the potatoes back to the pan and stir to combine.rolls

Honey Yeast Rolls

Come from Annie’s Eats. I cannot say enough about her blog. There are some many great recipes; hers is often one of my go-tos. These rolls were airy and delicious. The honey made them just sweet enough. I make them all the time and they are always a huge hit.

Honey Yeast Rolls
Ingredients:
2 ¼ tsp. instant yeast
1 cup warm water (105°-115° F)
¼ cup honey
3 tbsp. canola oil
1 ¼ tsp. salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 cups bread flour
vegetable cooking spray
1 tbsp. butter, melted
1 tbsp honey

Directions:
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the yeast and warm water.  Add the honey, oil, salt, and egg and mix well.  Add 3 cups of the flour and mix until the dough comes together in a sticky mass.  With the mixer on low speed, add the remaining 1 cup flour and mix until it is incorporated into the dough.  Switch to the dough hook, and continue kneading on low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.

Form the dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat.  Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot until it doubles in bulk, about 2 hours.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 30 seconds.  Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

Punch the dough down and divide into 12 equal portions.  Shape each portion into a ball and place into a round, lightly greased baking dish, spacing evenly.  Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for 20 minutes.  Mix together the melted butter and honey, and brush lightly over the tops of the rolls.  Bake at 400° for 13-15 minutes or until lightly browned.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

FrittatasEggs

The last piece to this Mother’s Day puzzle were two types of Frittatas. I double them the Boy and Girl Frittatas.

The Boy Frittata

This was Giada recipe and was very good. Although, I thought some of the flavors, the ham and cheese, got lost in the eggs. I even cooked the ham beforehand and there was still nothing more than an undertone. Everyone loved them but I thought they could use a little tweaking.

Ingredients

Nonstick vegetable oil cooking spray

8 large eggs

1/2 cup whole milk

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 ounces thinly sliced ham, chopped

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan

2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Spray 2 mini muffin tins (each with 24 cups) with nonstick spray. Whisk the eggs, milk, pepper, and salt in a large bowl to blend well. Stir in the ham, cheese, and parsley. Fill prepared muffin cups almost to the top with the egg mixture. Bake until the egg mixture puffs and is just set in the center, about 8 to 10 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, loosen the frittatas from the muffin cups and slide the frittatas onto a platter. Serve immediately.

The Girl Frittata

This came from my own mind and was very good. I thought the flavors of each element really shone through and created a great dish.

7 cups of fresh spinach

1 medium onion thinly sliced

6 slices of bacon

½  medium tomato

10 eggs

½ cup of whole milk

Salt

Pepper

¾ cup of Gruyere cheese

Butter

Note: Seasoning each element is important so remember to add salt and pepper to the onions and the spinach during the first phase of their cooking.

1. Preheat oven to 400.

2. Add a half of tablespoon of butter to a 10 inch non stick skillet over medium high heat.

3. Add the onions to the pan and sauté until soften and caramelized about 6 minutes. Remove onions from the pan and keep warm.

4. Cook the bacon in the same skillet you cooked the onions in until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan.

5. Discard some of the bacon drippings but leave 1-2 tbsp in the pan. Add the spinach and sauté.

6. Cook the spinach until wilted about 6 minutes. Remove of pan and drain the spinach. Push on the spinach until most of the water is gone.

7. In a separate bowl, mix your eggs, milk, cheese, salt and pepper. Whisk until scrambled.

8. In the same skillet you cooked the onions, bacon, and spinach in, add the tomatoes to the pan. Cook about 2 minutes. Discard any tomato water that comes out of the tomato.

9. Add the onions, spinach, and tomatoes to the pan. Cook for 3 minutes until everything is warmed.

10. Crumble the bacon into the pan.

11. Add the eggs over the onion and spinach mixture.

12. Cook on the stove for 3 minutes, moving the eggs around slightly with your spoon. This is the time you want to make sure the onion, spinach and tomatoes are properly distributed.

13. Place the skillet in the oven and cook for 8-10 minutes.

14. If the top of your frittata is still loose (excess egg on top) you can put it under the broiler for 1-3 minutes.

15. Remove the pan from the oven and remove the frittata from the pan onto a cutting board. The frittata should come out whole.

16. Cut the frittata like a pizza into 8 slices and serve.

The white ones are lava

February 1, 2009

I had a lot of idiosyncrasies when I was a child. I believe childhood actually lends itself to them. I mean how many of us have skipped around the grocery store avoiding cracks to keep our mothers safe from harm or only stood on the brown squares because the white ones are death traps of fiery magma. A child’s imagination is a constant flow of neurotic thought followed by an illogical physical response, in hopes of avoiding such a fate.

These idiosyncrasies reared their head in every area of my formidable years including meals. To this day my favorite thing about mashed potatoes is the gravy lagoon contained inside its starchy valley, which eventually overflows and kills the villagers (corn) down below. Of course, I don’t like gravy so instead I watch Alex’s plate like a hawk until the inevitable destruction happens. Then, the four year old inside of me laughs with maniacal glee.

Waffles also come with their own irrational rule. I had to fill each individual square with syrup to the top of the depression and then, stop the sugary flow so as not to taint the containment wall until I reached the next golden hole. This process continued with impeccable precision until all the holes (including the triangles ones on the side) received their sugary deposit. I would have been brilliant on an assembly line. After completing this methodical process, I would then break the sections apart and stack them as high as I feasible could, pretty much destroying all of my painstaking work from before. My reasoning: they were more fun to eat this way; sounds completely reasonable to my 7 year old self.

Most of these ticks have been abandoned for more convenient, logical, and rational thought. However, this “maturing” also makes life a little more mundane, rigid and ordinary. So this morning, I chose to eat my waffles this way and later in the car, I will try to control the traffic lights with my mind.

Note: Alex apparently cannot relate with this entry. So two theories can be made:

1.      Boys are different than girls and did not do any of these things

Or

2.   Alex is a robot sent here to eventually destroy me. I will be doing research on this and will report back later.

Buttermilk Wafflesimg_0064a

Comes from the Domestic Diva Martha Stewart

The waffles were perfectly golden and crispy. You can taste the cinnamon in the waffles and it gives them a depth of flavor. Alex rates them an 8 and I am refraining from rating because it would not be fair to the waffles. I am getting over being sick and cannot taste flavors. But, they sure looked good.

Ingredients

Serves 4 to 6

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) melted unsalted butter, plus more for waffle iron
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs, separated, room temperature
  • 2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Grease waffle iron with a small amount of melted butter, and heat. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg yolks, buttermilk, melted butter, and vanilla. Pour into dry mixture, and combine.
  3. In a medium bowl, beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold whites into batter.
  4. Ladle about 1/3 cup batter onto each section of the waffle grid; spread batter almost to the edges. Close lid, and bake 3 to 5 minutes, until no steam emerges from waffle iron.
  5. Transfer cooked waffles to a baking sheet; place in an oven set to low heat, about 200 degrees, while using remaining batter.
img_0003a

The worst part about waffle making

doughnuts1I know that my negligence of this blog, for the month of December, will probably result in my lynching, but I implore you to hear my plea: I was lazy. December was a blur of co-worker goodie baskets, quick bread gift baskets, and our Annual Family Dinner party (which contained many a stories that will be shared later). And while I have pictures to remember it all including pictures of the glorious, mouthwatering, talked about for days food, I just could not bring myself to sit down infront of the computer and share it with you. Instead, I slept. December and the holidays were filled with merriment and joy but mostly sleep.

I do have a post for you today though, to start the year off right. And while you are virtually lynching me, I will try to pacify you with the strife these doughnuts caused.

My family, aka Alex (my husband) and Cindy (my sister), are very supportive of my blog. They think my OCD nature in regards to my pictures and food is “cute” (I hate that word) and are quite proud of their cynical chef. They enjoy reaping the benefits of my labor and are usually quite content with waiting the extra few moments to dive in. Usually.

However, there are some meals like the aforementioned doughnuts, where their calm and appreciative demeanor melts away and they morph into a four year old that has just had their lollipop snatched away.

The promise of fresh yeast dougnuts was made early in the week. Thinking back that might have been where it started; the anticipation was too much. After days of thinking about the doughnuts, they were drooling with glee yesterday morning. Then, they realized that these were yeast doughnuts which meant rising time. It was then I saw the first signs of annoyance. Then, the doughnuts were cut and place on a sheet tray; “Surely, they have to be ready soon”, I saw the words of their thoughts floating above their heads. Nope, time for another rise. This time, I was met with mild irritation.

Then, the precious, airy rings of dough were fried and then cinnamon/sugared and were left to cool on an upside down cooling rack (thanks Alton) and I went to get my camera. I came back to find the little one (my sister) hovering over them. She had a look of maniacal destruction on her face. I stopped dead in my tracks and said “Not yet. I need to get the pretty ones”. She looked at me with crazy in her eyes and goes “Ohhhhh your FOOD BLOG! Too bad”. She then picked up one of those suckers, shoved it into her mouth and laughed with glee.

I am still scarred from this incident. Cindy will tell that I have used creative license on this story but I promise you this is exactly how my mind remembers it. Infact, I am not even sure how many doughnuts this recipe made (I halved it) because by the time I got back with my 3 photography doughnuts, the rest were gone. It was a New Year Day Doughnut Massacre. I think I need to think twice about my livelihood when I choose what to cook from now on.

Raised Doughnuts doughnuts2
Adapted from Betty Crocker’s Old-Fashioned Cookbook and Erin Cooks
Yields approximately 4 dozen doughnuts

5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt

2 packages active dry yeast
1 3/4 cups very warm milk (120º to 130º)
1/3 cup shortening
2 eggs
Vegetable oil
Sugar

Mix 2 cups of the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, salt and yeast in large bowl. Add milk, shortening and eggs. Beat on low speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently. Beat on medium speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently. Stir in remaining flour until smooth. Cover and let rise in warm place 50 to 60 minutes or until double. (Dough is ready if indentations remain when touched).

Turn dough onto generously floured surface; roll around lightly to coat with flour. Flatten dough with hands or rolling pin to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut with floured doughnut cutter. Push together scraps and gently knead 2 or 3 times. Flatten dough to 1/2-inch thickness; cut with floured 3-inch doughnut cutter. Cover doughnuts and let rise 30 to 40 minutes or until double.

Heat oil (1 1/2 to 2 inches) in Dutch oven to 350º. Slide doughnuts into hot oil with wide spatula. Fry about 1 minute on each side or until golden brown. Remove carefully from oil (do not prick surfaces); drain on paper towels. Roll or shake in sugar. (My note: Or alternatively you can also dip the tops of the doughnuts in glaze. See recipe below).

White Doughnut Glaze
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4-6 tablespoons milk (depending on your desired consistency)

Combine all of the ingredients into a bowl with a fork. If the glaze is too thin, add more confectioner’s sugar. If the glaze is too thick, stir in a little extra milk.

We were having trouble making the inner hole. I had three biscuit cutters and the little one was just to big; so in a momendoughnuts3t of genius, Alex suggested one of my piping tips (the circle part of course) and it worked perfectly.

Step 1: Cut a hole in the box

November 16, 2008

Throughout my day, I randomly talk, sing and laugh to myself but mostly sing. No song is out of my vocal range and all of the members of our house love it when I sing. The cats come running to me like the woodland animal scene in Snow White. Their favorite songs are You are My Sunshine and I Will Always Love You from the Bodyguard. No matter what my husband tells you, they all love my off key vocals and mis-timed cadence. And their favorite part is the fact that I belt out every song in my musical memory.

Yesterday was such an occasion. My song of choice was from and SNL skit: the Spartans.

Roll Call!!!

Hi my name is Craig

I give great hugs

You are not my friend

If you do drugs

Accompanying the music demonstration was the clapping and body gesturing of Will Ferrel’s famous cheerleader. This caused a discussion between Alex and I about the validity of my show. He claimed that he had never seen such a skit and I most certainly had to prove him wrong and off to YouTube we went.

Unfortunately, we were not able to find the skit I speak of (we found many other Spartan skits) but we did find our other favorites. Sean Connery and Celebrity Jeopardy and Justin Timberlake’s Blank in a Box. My sister, who had never seen this tribute to the male anatomy wrapped up for the holidays, dissolved in laughter and  brought it up again during a discussion about the possibility of French Toast for breakfast.

It was then that I decided that we were going to make Egg in a Toast in honor of this skit.

But, we were going to use French Toast bread for a spin. So here are the directions Justin Timberlake style:

Step 1: You cut a hole in that bread

Step 2: You put your egg in that bread

Step 3: You make her eat that bread

Enjoy!egg-in-the-hole-french-toast-059a

International House of Pancakes French Toast

2 eggs

½ cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

3 teaspoons butter

6 slices thick-sliced French bread

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Pancake Syrup

If you are making egg in a hole French Toast, cut the hole in the bread before you dip in into the French toast batter.

1. Beat the eggs in a large shallow bowl.

2. Add the milk, vanilla, flour, and salt to the eggs. Beat the mixture with a whisk. Be sure all the flour is well combined. – I put the flour in first then the eggs beat them together then add the rest of the milk.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. When the surface is hot, add about a teaspoon of butter.

4. Dip the bread, a slice at a time, into the batter, being sure to coat each side well. Drop the bread onto the hot pan (as many as will fit at one time) and cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side or until the surface is golden brown.

5. If doing egg in the hole, brown both sides then crack the egg in the middle of the hole. Let the egg cook for 2-3 minutes then flip and let cook for 2-3 minutes.egg-in-the-hole-french-toast-041a

6. Repeat with the remaining pieces of bread.

7. Cut each piece of toast in half diagonally. Arrange six halves of the toast on two plates by neatly overlapping the slices. Sprinkle about ½ tablespoon of powdered sugar over the tops of the toast slices on each plate. Serve with butter and syrup on the side. If making egg in a hole, there is no need to cut the slices in half.

egg-in-the-hole-french-toast-013

The recipe gets used alot

Adapted from: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes Todd Wilbur

How You Doin’

November 2, 2008

Often when I cook I daydream. This practice usually results in burns on my body, food resembling charcoal briquettes, and overflowing cups causing a small monsoon. I am working on reining it in but it is not going anywhere. For instance, today during my pancake adventure, my mind wandered to my favorite (albeit off the air) show Friends. Now, I did not jump right into to any episode; no my mind placed me smack dab in the middle of the pancake argument. I will explain.

In Season 7, Rachel moved in with Joey and learned about a requirement of being Joey’s roommate. When Joey had girls over for, you know How You Doin’, Chandler would let the girl down gently the next morning over freshly made pancakes. He would explain that Joey was a loner and it wasn’t them it was Joey. As I relived this comedically masterful scene in my head, I found myself thinking, Chandler could have saved a lot of time. He should have used the pancakes to tell the girls it was over. No speech necessary; just a syrupy send-off served over warm rich buttermilkly goodness.


I would like to think that when faced with such a breakup message, I would enjoy the fruits of Chandler’s labor, relished in the How You Doin’ from the night before, and continue on my merry way. But then again, I probably would have found a new place for those pancakes to live. I probably would have tucked them into Joey’s bed for Hugsy (Joey’s penguin) to enjoy. But that’s just me.

So today I offer you, the best pancake recipe I have found complete with a breakup message sent with love. You should have seen the look on my husband’s face when I served him his breakfast. Enjoy!

Today’s recipe comes from a site I hold near and dear Smitten Kitchen.

Best Buttermilk Pancakes
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Original Classics Cookbook

Yield: Martha says this makes 9 6-inch pancakes; I got about 16 4-inch ones, which are more the size I like

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or slightly less table salt
3 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups buttermilk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus 1 tablespoon extra for brushing griddle (I’ve made these pancakes with and without the butter mixed in, and can say with confidence they work either way. They’re just richer with it, of course.)

1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen and thawed (optional)

1. Preheat an electric griddle to 375°F, or place a griddle pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl. Add the eggs, buttermilk, and 4 tablespoons melted butter, and whisk to combine. The batter should have small to medium lumps.

2. Test the griddle by sprinkling a few drops of water on it. If the water bounces and spatters, the griddle is hot enough. Using a pastry brush, brush the remaining 1/2 teaspoon butter onto the griddle. Wipe off the excess with a folded paper towel.

3. Using a 4-oz. ladle, about 1/2 cup (for a 6-inch pancake), pour the batter in pools 2 inches apart. If you wish to make blueberry pancakes, arrange a handful over the cooking pancake, pressing them in slightly. When the pancakes have bubbles on top and are slightly dry around the edges, about 2 1/2 minutes, flip over. If any batter oozes or blueberries roll out, push them back under with your spatula. Cook until golden on bottom, about 1 minute.

4. Repeat with the remaining batter. You can keep the finished pancakes on a heat-proof plate in the oven at 175°F. Serve warm.

Tips: I use a ratio of 2 ½ cups of buttermilk and ½ cup of 2% milk. I found it keeps the buttermilk twang in check.

To draw shapes/words: Fill a squirt bottle with some of the pancake mixture. Lube up your griddle with butter. Draw your picture or words. Wait 3-5 minutes. This allows the drawing/words to get darker then the rest of the pancake. Then pour the rest of the batter over the drawing/words. When the pancake is ready flip and your drawing/words will transfer.