Rosemary sea salt crisps

IMG_5480

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.

IMG_4914

 

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!

IMG_4983

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

IMG_4554

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 🙂

IMG_4651

 

 

 

 

 

Pesto, pasta,scallops and tomatoes

 

IMG_3548

I decided to make a big batch of pesto to have for future use and also for this pasta dish.  Pesto is great for so many things.

Some uses:

Appetizer for impromptu guests: I always have French bread in the freezer. Pop it in the oven at 350 degrees F, once soft enough cut in half, length wise and drizzle with olive oil and add a thick layer of pesto.  You can add a slice of tomato and cheese such as parmesan or fresh mozzarella to put on top. Put it back in the oven for 5 more minutes at 350 degrees F. It makes a great little appetizer.

Tea sandwiches:  Put some Pesto on a slice of bread with turkey and a slice of tomato. Place other slice of bread on top and cut into fours.

Finger foods: Stuff Cherry tomatoes with pesto or use as a dip with veggies.  If you have parmesan cheese put a small shaved piece on top.

Chicken Breast-cut a sliver into breast and stuff with pesto.

Pork Chops- cut a sliver into side of pork chop and stuff with pesto.

Steak- jazz it up with a dollop of pesto before serving.

Soups:  Add flavor with a spoon of pesto.

The list goes on… pizza… flat bread… filo dough…

Pasta: I play around with the ingredients that go with the pesto pasta as well as type of pasta. I’ve added all sorts of things. You can add Slices of chicken breast, scallops, grilled shrimp and play around with a veggie ingredient. I tend to stick to cherry or grape tomatoes.

Tonight I made my dish with scallops, grape tomatoes and parsley.

Pesto Recipe:  I make a huge amount so that I can keep a jar in the fridge, covered in a thick layer of olive oil to keep for up to 2 weeks and freeze the rest.

1 clove garlic- if you want it more garlic tasting add two.

1 cup parmesan cheese

2 cups pine nuts-I put a lot cause I’m nutty

1 big bunch of basil-maybe 2 cups worth

1 1/2 to 2 cups extra virgin olive oil

I make this in a Cuisinart. If you don’t have one, you can do it the old Italian way with a mortar and pestle. If you don’t have that, then start really chopping and mashing!!!

Put one clove garlic and chop it up.  Add the pine nuts, the basil and then the parmesan cheese.  Keep it spinning while adding massive amounts of olive oil, pouring it through the opening of the cuisinart.

And voila, you have pesto.  You can get inventive and make a parsley pesto, just use parsley vs basil.  I’ve also made a walnut and parsley pesto by swapping out the pine nuts and basil with walnuts and parsley.  Sun-dried tomato pesto is also wonderful, just use this recipe and add 1 cup of softened sun-dried tomatoes.

 

Now for the pasta dish:

IMG_3538

For two people

Boil water for pasta-I used Fettuccini-see box for serving size

While water is boiling chop a bunch of parsley -1/4 cup

Halve the grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes-about 6-8 tomatoes per serving

Heat a frying pan with 1 tablespoon butter.  Once butter is melted add your scallops and sear on both sides-2 mins max per side.

Drain Pasta and put back into pasta pot.

Add 3 big heaping spoons of pesto and stir together till well incorporated.  You may want to use more or less pasta depending on taste.

Put pasta into bowls, toss in tomatoes, arrange scallops and lastly add the parsley, a bit of salt and pepper to taste.

Yum!

A fresh, home-made Pesto made to this recipe.

A fresh, home-made Pesto made to this recipe. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: this is a picture of self made pesto ...

English: this is a picture of self made pesto in a mortar. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)