Sunday, December 13, 2009

{gift idea-recipe book}

as the holiday season is fast approaching and for the procrastinators out there in need of a quick gift idea for someone who enjoys cooking....

i use to have random sheets of recipes scattered about my apartment. when i cooked with a recipe that i tore out from a magazine, the article would become spattered with all the ingredients from the recipe. {oops}.

solution? the best thing i found was to place the recipes into binder sheet protectors. this allows you to protect the recipes from the occasional spatter. and, if a little oopsie occurs, wiping with a damp cloth takes care of it! with clear view binders, you could put in a myriad of beautiful colorful papers that can match any kitchen! here is one that i made for a friend as a bridal shower gift...

so, to make this lovely and personalized gift, you can buy:
- a packet of sheet protectors
- 1 inch binder that has clear view pockets that allows you to place in sheets of paper in the front/back/spine
- few sheets of pretty scrapbook paper that coordinate with your gift receiver's kitchen (buy at local crafts store)
- letter stickers
- 1 sheet of plain scrapbook paper
- few of your favorite recipes

1. measure out size of paper that fits into the clear pockets/spine {if needed-create a template paper - and make sure it slides into the clear view pockets before you start cutting your pretty scrapbook paper}
2. using a paper cutter, cut the pretty scrapbook paper to size
3. insert pretty scrapbook paper to back/spine
4. cut "recipes" background on plain scrapbook paper to whatever size you prefer using your paper cutter
5. stick letter stickers onto the plain scrapbook paper {i just put the word "recipes", but you could personalize it with the person's name}
6. glue "plain scrapbook paper with the stickers" onto the "front page of the pretty scrapbook paper" with a glue stick
7. insert this sheet into the front of the binder

voila! a personalized practical and handy recipe book that will be used for years to come. i use it frequently in my kitchen and find it quite indispensable. if you have any questions, leave me a comment. hopefully, someone will enjoy this gift as much as i have!

Friday, December 11, 2009

{mom's apple cake from the smitten kitchen}

i was chatting with my long-time friend lydia about ideas for thanksgiving desserts and she shared with me that a friend of hers recommended a famous recipe by the smitten kitchen blog. now that is one great blog with an amazing following!

the recipe was called "mom's apple cake". there were hundreds of raving reviews about this recipe so i had to try it out. anything with the word {mom} in the recipe makes me want to give it a whirl in the kitchen...

{ok, i have to share how much i love that i learned how to post these larger pictures for my blog!! yay! its almost like you can eat it off the blog page!}

overall, i have to agree that it is a delicious cake and a great dessert for thanksgiving. baked apples? cinnamon? coffee cake base? mm..lovely combination. the cake was very moist and flavorful and tasted delightful when it was warm and right out of the oven. and while it was baking in the oven, {the smell} was just. heavenly. my only qualm, because i tend not to enjoy super sweet desserts, was that the dessert was super sweet. i couldn't get a good sense of whether the guests really loved it or were just polite. heehee. if i would make it again, i would definitely cut the sugar by half or at least to only about 1 1/4 cups. and, since the tube pan that i had ordered from amazon to make the apple cake was sitting all lonely, locked in my apartment building's front office on thanksgiving day, i decided to pour most of the batter into a springform pan and small amount of it into a loaf pan out of uncertainty as to how high the cake would rise, it turned out just fine as you can see from the pictures. all of it would have fit nicely into the springform pan.

here is the recipe below. depending on your love for sweets, adjust the sugar accordingly in the batter :) enjoy!

Mom’s Apple Cake (recipe link from the Smitten Kitchen)

6 apples, Mom uses McIntosh apples
1 tablespoon cinnamon
5 tablespoons sugar

2 3/4 cups flour, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar (like i mentioned above, the dessert was sweet to me, so if i was going to make it again, i would cut it to either 1 1/4 cup or 1 cup)
1/4 cup orange juice
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a tube pan. Peel, core and chop apples into chunks. Toss with cinnamon and sugar and set aside.

Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into the dry ones, then add eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.

Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Spread half of apples over it. Pour the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the remaining apples on top. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a tester comes out clean.

{would i make this again? yes}

Thursday, December 10, 2009

{new design}

hello readers, as you can see, i have decided to use my new blog site design for this website. keeping up the two blogs seemed...well, senseless. so, with the new and coming year, i figured, why not change the site with a little more freshness...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

{Grandma Louise's Tomato Sauce from Chef Academy}

have any of you watched the new bravo tv show-Chef Academy? the show features a renowned Michelin award-winning Chef Novelli, who opens a culinary academy in Los Angeles that teaches/trains aspiring cooks to cook like professionals {would love to learn how to cook like a professional!}. it is not a competition perse, but, if the students {major characters} fail 3 challenges, they then fail the academy. anyways, the reason i enjoy watching the show is because each episode, Chef Novelli briefly demonstrates a classic technique/recipe or cooking method.

the one episode that caught my attention was "Grandma Louise's Tomato Sauce". i've always wanted to know how to make a kick-butt tomato sauce. honestly though, i've never even thought of trying it, especially with inexpensive jars of tomato sauces available at the market in every imaginable flavor. i did venture once to try and make it with canned tomatoes--it turned out ok, but not better than the ready-made sauces. but, since i've been married, i've been made aware that my husband has a mild aversion to jarred tomato sauces {wah?!}. in all fairness, the acidity of the tomato sauce is sadly reminiscent of a bad bout of gastroenteritis. {share too much? heehee. eeew...} anyways, so my quest has been to find a way to make a tomato sauce that he enjoys since i want to make my husband's tummy happy and also because i personally adore tomato based foods. hence, i decided to try and make this tomato sauce. as you can see from my photo of the dish below, it has a deep, rich color with chunks of tomatoes. how good would that be over a plate of pasta?

My personal thoughts on the recipe: it is actually more expensive to make this tomato sauce from scratch compared to the jars without question {3 dollars for a jar on sale versus 6 dollars for just the tomatoes (excluding the anise/vanilla/basil)--although maybe i paid too much for the tomatoes at trader joe's}, i only used 2 anises since i'm not a super fan of licorice-y foods, i used vanilla bean paste since it is less expensive instead of a fresh vanilla bean, and added 2-3 chile pods for spice. The flavor is quite intense and one must be patient for it to develop into that paste-like consistency {1.5 hours!}. my sauce ended up being a little bit tart in the end, so i probably should have added more sugar for balance.

the wonderful thing about the sauce is not only the multiple layers of flavor with the anise, vanilla bean, chile, garlic, and basil, but the incredibly intense showcase of the tomato. {it sings tomato} ultimately, i felt like the sauce was quite lovely and am willing to make it again, with a couple more tweaks.

making a tomato sauce from scratch? {check!}

The link for the recipe is here; Grandma Louise's Tomato Sauce
The Original Recipe for "Grandma Louise's Tomato Sauce" {with my side commentary}

6 lb (2.7 kg) Beef or Heirloom tomatoes
4 Star anise {i only used two}
1 Vanilla pod {used vanilla bean paste-purchased at Sur La Table}
Sea salt & cracked black pepper to season
White sugar
2 Sprig fresh thyme
1-2 Bay leaves
{i added 2 dried chili pods}

Fresh garlic
28gm bunch fresh basil
Extra virgin olive oil

1. Place a heavy cast pan to heat up.
2. Wash the tomatoes and halve roughly.
3. Place into the hot pan and season with salt, pepper and a touch of sugar.
4. Add the anise and vanilla.
5. Allow the tomatoes to start to cook then press them gently with a masher to help them to release their juice.
6. Reduce the heat down to just simmering and continue for about 1-2 hours until a thickened paste. This slow evaporation of the moisture from the tomatoes will produce a deep color concentrated flavor without any bitterness.
7. Crack the garlic and add along with the basil which is just halved and throw in.
8. Combine with the warm paste and finish with a good amount of olive oil to finish the infusion. Allow to cool before storing ready for use.

• If you have added too much sugar to start this can be balanced out with a touch of vinegar.
• Always taste the tomatoes uncooked to determine their natural sweetness before you add the sugar.
• The amount of garlic to infuse with greatly depends on its strength; again make your own judgment.
• Additional seasoning such as cumin, fennel seeds, chili etc can be added this is of course personal taste again.
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