Monday, July 18, 2011

On Hiatus

I'm always telling the kiddos to do what they NEED to do first, then they can do what they WANT to do.  I've decided it's time that I follow my own advice.  I NEED to put my house in order and finish some projects so I've decided to put blogging on the back-burner for a while.  I hope to be back soon!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Pate a Choux (Bless You)

222-years ago, on July 14th, the French stormed the Bastille, igniting the French Revolution.  15-years ago, on July 14th, I vowed to honor and cherish the man whom I call hubby, til death do us part.  In honor of my sweet man, and in reference to the French and hubby's favorite bike race, le Tour de France, I decided to try out a special new dessert, Profiteroles.  They are basically cream puffs filled with ice-cream instead of pastry cream.  Since ice-cream is the one food that hubby could solely live off of, I knew he would enjoy these treats.  The french influence comes from the Pate a Choux (payt ah shoe) dough used to make the pastry puffs.  Topped with homemade chocolate sauce, they make a sumptuous ending to any meal.

Once again, America's Test Kitchen came to my rescue with a great recipe for these tasty tidbits.  This is from their Family Baking Book.


1.  Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425-degrees.  Grease a large baking sheet and line it with parchment paper.  Fit a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch plain tip.  Beat 2 large eggs and 1large egg white together in a small bowl.
2.  Bring 6 tablespoons water, 5 tablespoons unsalted butter (in 1/2-inch pieces), 2 tablespoons milk, 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour until incorporated.  Return the saucepan to low heat and cook, stirring constantly using a smearing motion, until the mixture looks like shiny, wet sand, about 3 minutes (175-180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer).

3.  Immediately transfer the hot mixture to a food processor.  With the machine running, pour the egg mixture through the feed tube in a steady stream and process until incorporated, about 30 seconds.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and continue to process until a smooth, thick, sticky paste forms, about 30 seconds.

4.  Fill the pastry bag with the warm dough and pipe 1 1/2-inch mounds on the baking sheet (6 across, 3 down) spaced about 1-inch apart.  Use a wet finger to even out the shape and smooth the surface of the mounds.

5.  Bake the pastries for 15 minutes, then, without opening the oven door, reduce the oven temp to 375 degrees and continue to bake until fairly firm and golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes longer.

6.  Remove the baking sheet from the oven and cut a 3/4-inch slit into the side of each pastry with a small knife to release the steam.  Return the pastries to the oven, turn the oven off, and prop the door open with the handle of a wooden spoon.  Let the pastries dry until the center is just moist (but not wet) and the surface is crisp, about 45 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

7.  While the pastries cool, use a 2-inch ice cream scoop to scoop mounds of ice cream onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Wrap with plastic and freeze until needed, up to 1 week.  (I used 31 Flavors Jamocha Almond Fudge and it was sooooo good.)

8.  When ready to serve, use a small knife to slice open the pastries about 3/8-inch from the bottom.  Arrange ice-cream scoops on the bottom halves of the pastries, and replace pastry tops over the ice-cream.  Drizzle with warm chocolate sauce (recipe below).  Unfilled pastries can be stored in a plastic bag for 1 day or frozen for 1 month.  Re-crisp them in a 300-degree oven for a few minutes.

Chocolate Sauce

1.  Bring 1 cup heavy cream, 1/4 cup light corn syrup, 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (cut in 4 pieces), and a pinch of salt to a boil in a small saucepan.  Off the heat, stir in 8-ounces finely chopped semi-sweet chocolate, cover, and let sit until the chocolate is melted, about 5 minutes.

2.  Uncover and whisk gently until smooth, trying not to incorporate too many air bubbles.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  The sauce can be refrigerated for 2 weeks and re-heated until smooth.

Hubby and I when we were young and naive.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Extra! Extra!

I enrolled Sweetpea in a 4-week arts camp through our school district in an attempt to keep her busy this summer.  One of the classes she signed up for is Musical Theater.  On Friday, the last day of camp, the class will be performing a number or two from the movie, Newsies.  Sweetpea informed me that she would be needing a newsboy cap, and I found a very quick and easy pattern here at Red Heart Yarn.  I think the cap came out kinda cute but here's the kicker:  Sweetpea doesn't want to wear it.  I guess that's the downside of making handmade things for others; they're not always as well-received as the maker would hope for.  At least she was willing to pose for a couple of pictures:

Here is the link to my Ravelry notes on this project.

Here is one of the songs that they will be performing:

Bee (from Hive of Drama fame)!  Can you spot a certain someone that you love in this clip?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Boys of Summer

We took the kids out for their first Major League Baseball game today.  Neither hubby nor I have ever been to  Angels Stadium before (I was raised by blue-blood Dodger fans), so we packed the family in the van and headed down to Anaheim (and just past Disneyland, to the dismay of the little ones).  It turned out to be a wonderful day for a ball-game.  We were in the peanut gallery (read cheap seats) and that's where all the shade was!  The Angels won against the Seattle Mariners, 4 to 2.

Sugarbear with the requisite ball-park fare:  a hot dog (with plenty of ketchup).


Running the bases after the game.

And speaking of the Boys of Summer, this is one of my most favorite songs of all time:

Friday, July 8, 2011

So Cheesy

I usually think of cheese balls as fall/winter party fare.  However, when I was looking for recipes to try for my friend's 4th of July party, I came across this version, in the January 2011 issue of Cook's Country magazine,  made with goat cheese and summery flavors of lemon and basil.  Don't let the goat cheese turn you off, it adds a nice tang, but not a lot of it's own flavor.  This is easy to make and serves a crowd, so I'll be keeping this in my spring/summer recipe file.

Someone on Facebook mentioned that it looks like a Chia Pet.  I can see the resemblance.  However, my cheese ball tastes MUCH better than a Chia Pet would (not that I've ever tasted one).

Lemon-Herb Goat Cheese Ball

1.  Combine an 11oz log of plain goat cheese (about 2 cups crumbled), an 8oz brick softened cream cheese, 1 minced garlic clove, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, and 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest in a food processor until smooth.

2.  Transfer the cheese mixture to the center of a large sheet of plastic wrap and wrap tightly into a ball shape.  Refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours or up to two days.  (I found that it helped to keep the ball in a reound bowl to help it keep it's shape.)

3.  Once the cheese is firm, reshape it as necessary to form a smooth ball.  Unwrap and roll in 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh chives.  Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.

I served mine with round pita crackers from Trader Joe's.  They go really well with this spread.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


I was checking my e-mail this morning when I received the best news.  I am the winner of the America's Test Kitchen Spinach Fresh Food Challenge.  I won a copy of their Healthy Family Cookbook!  I'm so excited, 'cause I don't win things that often.  I'm thinking I should go out and buy a lottery ticket.

Here is a post I did a while back on this recipe.  It's so simple and yummy, and perfect for a warm summer night.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Butter Toffee Popcorn

The family and I've been invited to a 4th of July party, so I've been busy whipping up some snacks to share.  I found a recipe for Butter Toffee Popcorn (homemade Cracker Jack) in the October/November 2010 issue of Cook's Country Magazine that I've been wanting to make for a while now, and figured this was the right time to try it out.  I made two batches.

One to bring to the party:

And one to share with the neighbors (and the Mother-in-Law):

Butter Toffee Popcorn

1.  Heat the oven to 250 degrees.  Grease a 4-quart glass casserole dish or large roasting pan.  Place 3-quarts popped popcorn in the pan.

2.  Melt 10 tablespoons unsalted butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add 1-1/2 cups packed light brown sugar, 1/2 cup dark corn syrup, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.  Off heat, stir in 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda (mixture will foam).  Add 2 cups salted peanuts and pour mixture over popcorn, tossing to coat.  Don't worry if the popcorn isn't completely coated at first.  It will be easier to mix as it spends time in the oven.

3.  Bake, stirring occasionally, until popcorn is deep golden brown and caramel has set, 1 to 1-1/2 hours.  (My batches took the full
1-1/2 hours.)  Cool to room temperature and serve.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 5 days.  Hide it from husbands and daughters who like to sneak pieces throughout the day.