Rosemary sea salt crisps

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I love finding new little party snacks to serve at a dinner party of 2 to a party of 30.  I love making food and sharing it, especially if it’s good. I especially like the kind of party bites you can make way ahead of time and that costs nothing compared to the very similar store bought items.

I decided to make my own crackers after reading a recipe for cheddar crackers from a recipe in one of the last Martha Steward Living magazine. I made Martha’s cheddar crackers. I froze half the dough and baked the other half.  The crackers were very flavorful, however I cut them too thick and they were chewy. I tried to fix the problem by putting them back into the oven and ended up making little tasty bricks.

I have learned a lot in my cracker making and think I’m improving-it’s seriously easy to make once you understand that you need to roll the dough as thin as possible. I think next time I will put the rolled out dough into my pasta machine and make it even thinner.

But enough said, these crackers are delicious. I wanted to see how long the shelf life was, but they didn’t even make it past a day. I do still have 3/4 of the dough frozen in 3 parts in the freezer-I know it will last up to one month. I will pull them out at the next gathering or bring in a nice little clear plastic bag with bow for a hostess gift. The great thing too is these are significantly cheaper to make than store bought-almost 1/8th the cost and there is no waste. I’m tired of spending 4-8 dollars on artisanal crisps that are 1/2 eaten and not easily kept and end up being tossed after a few days.

I ate these with a little sharp cheddar cheese and tomato. The crackers pair well with goat cheese, brie, sharp cheddar- you can even top with prosciutto and fresh mozzarella, sharp cheddar and cucumber, smoked salmon and cream cheese… the possibilities are endless.

Even the photo below just has a few slices of tomato with salt… delicious balance of juicy and dry.

IMG_5478Rosemary Sea Salt Crisp ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons of sugar

2 teaspoons of salt for mixture

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup warm water

2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary

Toppings-

2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary

1 tablespoon Maldon salt or a nice fleur de Sel ( if you have neither-kosher salt will do)

You can play around with these toppings.  The next I will try will be poppy seeds with salt, maybe sun-dried tomatoes and olives, chili pepper, pine nuts with salt maybe, or whatever I can find that I think will compliment the cheeses I’m thinking of serving these tasty crisps.

Directions:  Heat the oven to 425 and place rack in the middle.

Set two cookie sheets with parchment paper/

Mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl as well as the 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary.

Add the oil and water.  Mix this as much as you can for it to all be cohesive. If there is still too much flour or it’s not coming together add a bit more water and oil, one teaspoon of each at a time.

Roll the dough out. Cut in half and put top half on top of other.  Get some muscle into this. Keep rolling and dividing and rolling till everything has come together.  At this point you can reserve half or even 3/4 of the dough for another time. My advice is if you are keeping 3/4th of the dough (1/4 makes about 20 crackers) you should divide the dough into 3 balls that way you can have more or less depending on size of gathering. 1/4 is a great amount to put in a little gift bag.

Get working again with your rolling pin. This is where I think my pasta machine would help as my arms almost fell off using my wooden rolling pin. If you have a marble rolling pin you are in luck and you can probably get this dough as thin as possible.

I cut my little squares/rectangles and rolled each one again individually.  Place each on the cookie sheet as close as you want together. Add salt and rosemary to the tops and prick each cracker with 3- 4 fork holes.

Bake for about 12-15 minutes depending on your oven.  Let the crackers cool completely. Best is to transfer them to a wire rack so they can cool in a uniform way and get crunchier as they cool. You can store your crackers in a tin or place them in a sturdy clear gift bag-tie a bow and it’s a gift ready-but it won’t last more than 5 days.

 

Hope you enjoy and if you think of other toppings that would be yummy, let me know in the comments.

 

 

 

 

Graciela’s Egg Yolk Cake

All I can say is YUM. This is truly an easy cake to make and it’s delicious on it’s own. If you make the Pavlova and have extra egg yolks this is a perfect way to use up the yolks. See below for the instructions and ingredients.

12 egg yolks

2 cups sugar

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup warm milk

3 teaspoons vanilla

2 sticks of softened butter

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixer beat the egg yolks and sugar.  Slowly add the milk and flour at the same time slowly to not get any clumps-careful if you have the mixer on you can have a big flour cloud like I did with a big mess, so turn the mixer down. Add the 2 teaspoons of baking powder.  Continue mixing and turn mixer up. Add  2 sticks of softened butter. Once well incorporated add the vanilla.  Voila you are ready to bake in well greased pans.  Put in any size you want-play around with it. The little cupcakes were also delicious-but the tops were crunchy-so we’ll call it vanilla crunch cupcakes. I added a raspberry butter cream frosting to the cupcakes.

Butter cream:

2 cups confectioners suger

1 stick softened butter

3 tablespoons raspberry jam

The cupcakes take no time to bake-depending on oven-maybe 10-15 mins.  The cake takes about 30 mins-just check it with a tooth pick to see if no batter comes up when you poke the toothpick in.

YUMMY-this cake is easy and can be a simple breakfast cake or dress it up for a birthday or party with frosting, melted chocolate, whipped cream… whatever you want.

Enjoy

 

 

 

Meringues

So, on a past blog I learned how to make meringue for the Pavlova. The other day I was craving something sweet but didn’t want to spend much money or go to the store to buy more ingredients. I wanted to see what I could make just from what I had in my pantry/fridge. I decided to make Meringues! All I needed were 6 egg whites, 2 cups of sugar,vanilla and this time I added cream of tartar-just 1/2 teaspoon. My meringues were delicious!  I put some in a pipping bag and made little cute ones and got lazy for the others and made huge pancake-like shapes.

The trick that I learned was to heat the oven at 400 until you are ready to cook the actual melt-in-your mouth white clouds. Once you place the meringues in the oven, turn the temperature down to 180. I cooked mine for about 2 hours-I kept checking and tasting them which was the yummy part.  It all depends on the size you make and if you want them a bit undercooked with seriously chewy insides-which I love.

Now for the eggs-beat 6 whites at full blast till firm and fluffy. Slowly stream in 2 cups of sugar while still beating the whites. Beat for anther 20 or so minutes-you have to taste the egg whites to see if the sugar has dissolved. Once sugar crystals are gone, add 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar and 3 teaspoons real vanilla extract. Place in a pastry bag and make little kiss shaped mounds. You can choose the size, but just know it will affect the cooking time. IMG_4804

Another trick is to leave the meringues when done in the oven, with the oven off,until the oven is completely cool.

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Pizzas! -Pissaladiere and black olive,mushroom and ham

I love this pizza for parties-slice it up in smaller portions and you have a savory little bite.

I got two pre-made pizza doughs. Luckily as the pissaladiere took longer than expected. I had no idea what time it was and getting dinner done in 15 minutes wasn’t happening with onions that had to cook slowly for 45 minutes. So we ate the mushroom, black olives and ham pizza on Friday and enjoyed the anchovy, onion and black olive pizza on Saturday.

For the Pissaladiere:

3 lbs of sweet onions-about 7-8 depending on size

6 tablespoons of thyme

3 tablespoons of butter

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 can pitted black olives or cured black olives

3 small tins of anchovies

Pizza dough-I bought mine as I love Papa Joe’s pizza dough and there is no reason for me to make it at home-but just google pizza dough if you want to make it homemade.

Slice up onions as thin as possible

Melt 3 tbsps butter in 3 tablespoons olive oil and add 3 tablespoons fresh thyme.  Add onions and stir occasionally. Keep onions covered for 45 minutes.

Once onion mixture is done add them to rolled out pizza dough that has been placed on a greased cookie sheet.  Add the anchovies in a criss/cross/latice manner-please see video above.  Place one olive in each rectangle/diamond area.  Sprinkle the rest of the thyme and bake at 400 for 20-30 minutes depending on your oven and likings.

This pizza can be frozen before it’s baked for up to one month. It’s great for appetizers or just a simple meal. Serve with a side salad with an easy dijon vinaigrette.

Enjoy!

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Pavlova

IMG_4804Pavlova:

This will feed at least 30 people so cut the recipe in half if you have less J

12 Egg whites

4 cups plain white sugar

1 quart whipping cream

1 quart raspberries/blueberries/strawberries-get inventive 😉

3 teaspoons vanilla

Please see this demo my friend Graciela and I made on YouTube

Very easy recipe. Place 12 egg whites in a mixer and beat until thick and creamy. Slowly add the 4 cups of sugar streaming the sugar in the mixer at full speed. Mix for about 20 more minutes or more, until the sugar crystals have dissolved and there is no texture. Turn the oven on 400 degrees.

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. When egg whites are ready take half the mixture and spread as evenly as possible on cookie sheet. You can also pipe the mixture for a desig-effect for the top layer of your Pavlova. Use the other half of the egg whites and do the same on the other cookie sheet. Place them in the oven for 10 seconds with door open. Turn heat down to 180, shut oven door and bake for 3 hours. Once finished cooking leave in the oven to cool completely. I kept my meringue in the oven over night and assembled my desert 3 hours before the party.

Mix one quart of whipping cream-or more like I did, if you watch our YouTube video. Add 3 teaspoons of vanilla. Spread half on one layer of meringue-take the least attractive meringue for the bottom layer as it will be covered with cream. Add berries to the whipped cream layer. Add another layer of whipped cream on top of the berries and then top with your 2nd meringue. Voila-a gorgeous pavlova! You can get creative and play around with shapes and décor for the top of the meringue… have fun and enjoy!

Gougères- croque monsieur-style

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We’ve not ordered much since Christmas from the usual, Overstock.com, amazon, AllModern, ToysRUs or Lego.com as we are on a strict budget, so it was a big surprise seeing the UPS truck pull into my drive-way. I was wondering if I had ordered something by accident when pretend shopping. My pretend shopping is basically virtual window shopping where I fill my online basket with dreamy things I really don’t need, but just want. Luckily, I didn’t accidentally hit “one click buy” as it was a nice surprise gift from my mom. She sent me a beautiful cookbook written by the infamous, Jaques Pepin. I leafed through it immediately and found so many tempting recipes to try. The gougeres especially peeked my interest especially when I read that they could be cooked, filled and frozen, I thought it was perfect for our upcoming parties, not to mention inexpensive. I was a bit nervous as I’ve never made them before and always assumed it was difficult.  It really wasn’t, you just have to follow the steps.  I changed the recipe when it came for the filling.  I made the “croque monsieur-style”  with bechamel, gruyere and ham.  These little puff balls are so versatile-you could fill them with anything.

I think next time I will do a few different versions… I want to try

Blue-cheese and walnuts with a drop of honey

Goat cheese with chopped dates

Spicy jam with cream cheese

The list goes on….

Please look at this video for a little demo 🙂 and remember you can freeze these for up to a month and just heat at 350 for maybe 15-20 minutes in the oven.  Just place them in a ziplock and freeze-it’s perfect for an impromptu get-together.

For the pastry recipe from Jaques Pepin:

1 cup milk

8 tablespoons-(1 stick) unsalted butter

1 teaspoon sugar

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 cup all purpose flour

4 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, with racks in the middle.

Bring the milk, butter, sugar, salt and cayenne to a boil.

Remove pan from heat and add the flour in one stroke mixing as fast as possible.

Return mixture to the stove and stir for 1 minute more.

Place dough in a food processor or mixer for 10 seconds to cool slighting.  Break the eggs into a bowl and beat well.  Set aside about two tablespoons of the eggs in a small bowl to brush on the choux before baking.  Mis the egss and dough together until smooth.

Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil.  Using a teaspoon scoop about 1/2 teaspoon of dough  for each choux. Place them 1 inch apart.  you will have about 60 choux.  Brush each with the reserved beaten egg.

Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce oven to 350 and bake for another 15 minutes. cool in the oven with the door open for 15 minutes.

Transfer to cooking rack. Once cool cut horizontally and fill them with your favorite.  Try my croque monsieur style, it was super yummy.

 

For the Croque Monsieur filling:

3 tbsp flour

4 cups warm milk

3 tbsp butter

1 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup gruyere

1/2 cup chopped ham

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter with 3 tablespoons of flour.  Stir constantly until golden brown. Slowly add the warm milk and constantly whisk… add the salt and nutmeg and mix until it gets to the consistency of a smooth pureed soup or a thin gravy.Add the gruyere and chopped ham. Add a dollop in each opened profiteroles/choux. Place the top on and either heat up or place them in a zip lock to freeze. I had extra béchamel mixture and made croque monsieur… this is a treat too..recipe for that is easy. Next blog entry 🙂

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Will you be my Valentine?

IMG_4567When I first moved here in July, we had a housewarming party where friends brought gifts of nice bottles of wine and alcohol, flowers and local finds. Detroiters are proud of their heritage and are proud to bring anything that is locally made and I welcome it. Three different friends all brought three different bottles of vodka. One from Two James distillery in Corktown, another from Our/Detroit in Detroit and the other bottle was from Valentine‘s Distillery in Ferndale–all Detroit local vodkas. The Two James bottle was opened right away even before I got a chance to say thanks for the gift. It has a “manly” appeal with it’s old school label and metal embossed logo of two prohibition era-type looking silhouettes, of two men. The Our/Detroit bottle is much simpler and still 6 months later, hasn’t been opened. It looks as if it came out of a pharmacy or chemistry lab with it’s almost medicinal shape and simple handwritten-like font. The Valentine bottle also not yet opened, has a sexy, pin-up girl plastered on the bottle with a seductive look,whispering “Come hither” as she holds her welcoming martini glass. At first glance, I associated the pin-up girl to something cheap and assumed if the bottle looks cheap the vodka must be cheap and not all that good… wow, was I WRONG!!!!  I apologize for judging a vodka by it’s label and now understand that in fact, this lovely “Valentine” is a lot smarter than the other vodkas out there and she’s a reminder of high standards and quality. Valentine vodka has won numerous awards for quality and taste. It received 94 points of some award that I’m sorry I can’t remember, but it beat  Belvedere by 2 points, Ketel One by 3 and with Grey Goose by 4 points!

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Before yesterday’s tour of the Valentine Distillery, the bottle of Valentine’s tucked away in the back of our liquor cabinet had no chance of being opened, but now since the tour I’m dreaming of the next cocktail to serve with it at our parties or just pour a little for sipping as a night0cap.  The two-hour tour flew by. Fifteen of us from the BBNC group- a newcomer group of expats and people who have moved around as much as me, met up at 10:30AM to start our vodka tasting.  A bit early for most of us moms that had to pick up kids at 3, but it would give us enough time to grab some lunch and soak up the alcohol. I don’t think I’ve been to a bar this early in the morning since my World Cup days in NYC following my Brit, “futbol” maniac, obsessed boyfriend, at the time.  Sometimes he’d have us wake-up at 5AM, dragging me to a bar that was open on off hours, just for the match. I was foolish then!  Anyway, I quickly forgot the hour of the day because once inside Valentine’s Distillery, I was transported in time, back to a relaxed speak-easy from the years of prohibition. The building alone has so much history as it’s comprised of many different elements from that era. Everything has been repurposed from the windows to the old Packer Factory to beams from a Micihigan farm and so on. It’s real. I especially loved the tasting area, to me it had a Parisian vibe with the gorgeous velvet red sofas and soft lighting, or maybe it was the French music playing in the background that had me dreaming of quaint Parisian hide-outs. Never the less, we weren’t in Paris, but in Detroit, which was however once called, the “Paris of the Midwest.”

For my complimentary cocktail I focused on an acceptable early-morning drink and chose a Bloody Mary. A perfect choice. The local McClures pickles were spicy, the tomato juice smooth and the vodka wan’t too strong nor too weak.

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After a bit of chit-chat and socializing with the other women, Heather, the very informative bartender started the tasting. We tried each alcohol in little beakers. Our first taste was of Valentine’s original vodka. I don’t normally sip straight vodka but this was wonderfully smooth and not harsh like other vodkas. It was great. Our second tasting was my favorite –a bit more on the sweet side, the Elderberry Flower infused Vodka called White Blossom was delicious. I can’t wait to re-create a drink I saw on their menu with basil,honey and their white blossom vodka!

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We also tasted two kinds of gin–both had strong delicious notes of cardamon, which was a nice change from the typical, harsh Tanguerey or other yulky smelling gins. It was a pleasure to rediscover gin as I swore off from it 10-years ago. Finally the last tasting, the bourbon, which my husband would have loved, but he wasn’t with me so I selfishly went home with my favorite, the White Blossom Vodka. The tour of this local distillery was inspiring and made me proud to see great production, or more appropriately AMAZING production, coming out of Detroit. It was completely worth my little $20 bill and I will never buy mass-produced vodka, again! I definitely found my love for vodka, my true valentine!

http://valentinedistilling.com

http://ourvodka.com/ourdetroit/

http://twojames.com/our-spirits/?age-verified=d69bc16f56