Archives for category: brunch

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Last weekend I catered a lovely little party in Jamestown.  My friend Andy had asked me a couple of months ago to cook for his birthday party.  I knew it was coming up but did not realize that he didn’t have my phone number.  I was in Jamestown the friday before dancing at Town Hall to a great line up of local bands including the Gasoline lollipops.  I went out on the porch to cool off because the place was packed and the music had us all dancing and started talking to Nolan Farmer.  Andy rents a room in Nolan’s’ beautiful house nestled in the mountains above Jamestown.  Nolan asks if I am coming to Andy’s party on Sunday.  SUNDAY!  I told Nolan I better call Andy in the morning because I am supposed cater the party for him.  I called Andy in the morning a we worked out a quick and healthy menu.  Andy is committed to eating healthy and he is doing a great job.

Andy B-day in Jimtown 109Here is the birthday boy telling a joke.

I arrived at Andy and Nolan’s on Sunday and had a great day cooking with Andy and listening to the talented Nolan Farmer playing his guitar and singing some of the wonderful bluegrass songs he has written.  Does it get any better than that?

I made a kale and cabbage slaw with oven dried apples.

Andy B-day in Jimtown 056A light platter of salami and olives with some delicious fresh oranges.

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My whole wheat carrot cake cupcakes were a hit.

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Andy made a fantastic guacamole.

Andy B-day in Jimtown 089I also made some yummy goat cheese and veggie flatbread.

Andy B-day in Jimtown 088The center dish was an oven roasted salmon fillet with marinated baby heirloom tomatoes with garlic and fresh basil.

Andy B-day in Jimtown 040The guests loved the food but I think I had the most fun just watching my friends enjoy food cooked with love.

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Oven Roasted Salmon with Marinated Tomatoes

This dish is simple and delicious

2 lb Fresh Salmon Fillet

1 Pint heirloom Grape Tomatoes or Regular Grape Tomatoes

1 Garlic Clove Sliced Thinly

8-10 Fresh Basil Leaves

1 Lemon Sliced into Rounds

Sea Salt

Cracked Black Pepper

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Balsamic Vinegar

8 Hours before cooking marinate Tomatoes slice in half, Garlic and Basil with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Slice the salmon fillet down the center and then slice into the salmon about 1 inch on each side of the center cut so that the salmon will open up.

Rub the salmon with olive oil and season with sea salt and black pepper.

Open the top and pile in the tomato mixture.

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Top with slices of lemon and bake until salmon is fully cooked.  About 15 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  Serve hot or cold.  The roasted tomatoes take on a bright and sweet flavor.

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Mothers Day is coming up and this dish would be a hit.

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I have catered hundreds of events.  To have a smooth catered event you need a strong team.  Last summer I catered a small wedding in the mountains.  My great friends Ben Bell, Mike Deel and Dominic Daledia helped with this event.  The catering went smooth and easy.  It was a fun night and did not seem like work but having a party in the kitchen.  If only all of my catered events could go this smoothly.

The big difference with good food and great food comes when the people who are cooking love what they are doing.  That love comes through in the quality and flavor of the food.  This post was started last summer and I was reminded of it when I was looking at one of my favorite books Like Water for Chocolate.  This wonderful story is about the power of love coming through in food.  Read it if you have not gotten the chance yet.

When a group of cooks comes together, who love what they are doing, the food is always amazing.  I could not have done this event without the team that I worked with.

The bride wanted a cupcake tower and Dominic got out his chain saw and went to work creating this lovely platform for the cupcakes.

July 2012 118Mike was manning the grill and he can always grill up a piece of meat to perfection.  I  always trust that putting Mike Deel on the grill will result in perfect food.

July 2012 104Ben Bell is such a perfectionist that the detail work is where I task him.  He once topped some pizzas before going in the oven and I swear it looked like he had used a ruler to space the pepperoni evenly.  I love to watch this guy work.  It is beautiful how he is meticulous and artistic.

July 2012 102It really is all about the team when catering and this group of guys are always a pleasure to work with.

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I was reading a post from one of my favorite blogs, Things my Belly likes this morning and she asked if anyone had a cheese and maple recipe.  I thought about how this post has been languishing in my drafts folder and decided it was time to get it out and dust it off.

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Endive Spears with Goat Cheese and Maple Glazed Pecans

This is the most popular appetizer that I use when catering.  The crisp endive spears and creamy goat cheese topped with a sweet pecan and fig jam just fly off the tray when I serve them.

Endive spears separated and washed.  Let them dry on a towel for at least half an hour upside down to drain the water.

Toast pecan halves tossed in maple syrup until crispy.  This will take 8-10 minutes.   Let them cool completely before removing from the tray.

Mix 1 lb goat cheese with 2 tbs heavy whipping cream in a stand mixer with whisk attachment.

This will make the goat cheese easier to spoon into the endive spears.

Scoop a small amount of goat cheese into the endive spears.  Top with fig jam, one pecan, a sprig of fresh thyme and season with salt and pepper.

You can make your own fig jam or pick up a jar at the market.

Here is a great recipe for fig jam from Kiss my Spatula.

The smell of fresh bread baking at home is intoxicating.  Making it for your small food business will make your customers very happy and improve your bottom line.  What could be better than that?  If you bake your own bread at home it is one of the cheapest and tastiest ways to save money.

Oh no…you say!  That takes too much time and I am not a bread baker.  People often think bread baking is an art form or a science and too hard to learn.  This is not true.  Let me show you how easy and simple it can be.  You just need the right tools which you may already have in your kitchen or should have.

The inspiration for this post comes from one of my absolute favorite places to hang out.

When my husband and I discuss where we want to go and  hang out in the Boulder area it invariably ends up being the Jamestown Mercantile located about 20 minutes outside of Boulder in the foothills.  We started going to the Merc as it is called by the locals when we lived in Jamestown. This little restaurant and bar has live music on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.  You can also see many of the talented locals playing on Monday for open mike night.  Jamestown is a small town populated with mostly artists and musicians so open mike night is a treat.  The food at the Jamestown Merc is mostly made from scratch with high quality ingredients and lots of talent and love.  If you do not get there early on Thursdays they are likely to run out of the special dinner they are serving.  The beer is cold and the wine list is surprisingly good.  Desserts are made from scratch.

My favorite thing about the Jamestown Merc is the people.  The locals who come there are always entertaining and interesting.  Let me tell you about Jovan.  This young man is a talented cook working at the Merc and also a talented musician who plays on Mondays.  I believe the locals call Monday at the Merc “Open Jovan” instead of open mike.  He is usually at the Merc even if he is not working.  His lovely girlfriend Jesse at his side and a smile on his face.  I often talk about food with him and am delighted by his enthusiasm for cooking.  This post is for Jovan since he is getting started making bread.  He is good at bread making and has really excelled at making scratch pizza dough for Friday night pizza night.

Here is a picture of my hubby hurrying into the Merc on a cold winter day.

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This post is also for everyone else who reads this blog and had not ventured down the path of bread making or have tried and not gotten the results they expected.

Here are some pointers that will ensure your loaves are perfect each time.  These are not steps I find most home cooks take.  These are tools and tricks of professionals that should be employed at home for ease and consistency.

1.  Instant read thermometer also called an internal read thermometer.  Let me assure you a good instant read thermometer will become your favorite tool in the kitchen.  As a chef, one is always in my sleeve pocket and frankly I feel a bit naked without it.  I have 2 at home and carry one in my briefcase.  Yes, this is to ensure food is at proper temperature for the health department and to make sure people do not get sick from improperly cooked or held food but it is also to make sure food is perfectly cooked.  Perfect each time.  Consistency is king in a professional kitchen and you can achieve consistently great results with these tips and bake like a professional.  Check this page out for more info on internal read thermometers.

2.  Buy an oven thermometer or if you already have one use it.  A correctly calibrated oven is a rarity in a home kitchen as well as many professional kitchens.  Get one and check the temperature of your oven every time you bake.  You will be surprised at how your oven may be off by up to 25 degrees or more.

3.  You must weigh your ingredients instead of measuring.  Using a scale and weighing your ingredients is another technique used by professional chefs that is not often used at home.   It is very easy and much quicker to use a scale than to measure.  Check out this site for conversions from measuring to metic.  The Metric Kitchen.  Convert all your baking recipes to metric and you will be baking like a professional.  If you measure your results will be off most of the time, guaranteed.  I can also guarantee that your results will become consistently perfect with a scale.  It really is that easy.

4.  Make sure your ingredients are fresh.  Good flour and fresh yeast are very important in bread making.

If you use these tools and follow the recipe you will consistently produce a great loaf of bread.  I will not post the measurements on this recipe because I need everyone who tries it to weigh their ingredients.  Your bread will come out of the oven with a crisp and slightly chewy exterior, perfect crumb and complex flavor.  I may even venture to say you will never buy another loaf of bread again.

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Whole Wheat Loaf Bread

The recipe will make two loaves. 

770 grams of all-purpose flour

80 grams of whole wheat flour (not whole wheat pastry flour)

10 grams of wheat bran (not wheat germ)

690 grams or 24 oz of water at room temperature

15 grams of honey or agave nectar

16 grams of salt or 2 1/2 tsp

2 grams or 1/2 tsp  yeast

Olive oil for oiling the bowl.

Start your dough the night before you will be baking it.  I usually end my evening by mixing together my bread for the next day.

Weigh your flours and wheat bran out and put in a large bowl.  Add salt and yeast.  Mix together.

Add water and honey or agave nectar.

Mix together well.  When the dough comes together spray your hands with non-stick spray and knead it a few times to make sure all of the dry ingredients are mixed well into the wet.  I usually knead the douh in the bowl about 5-10 times.  This should only take about 1 minute.

Drizzle a small amount of oil around your dough and move the dough around the bowl to distribute the oil.

Cover your bowl with plastic wrap.  Many bread recipes call for covering your bowl with a damp towel.  Do not do this.  Cover your bowl with plastic wrap.  Then you can cover the plastic wrapped bowl with a dry towel if your kitchen tends to get a cold at night.  I always do this since I live in Colorado and my kitchen is chilly at night.

Let dough ferment for at least 10 and up to 24 hours.  I like the flavor of wheat bread with a 10-12 hour ferment.  The flavor is complex but not too strong.

After the bread has fermented for your desired time uncover your dough.  It will look bubbly and wet.  This is good.  You want it to look that way.

No knead bread after 12 hours

Put about 1/4 cup flour on a clean table or large cutting board.  Spread the flour out lightly.

Divide your dough into two pieces.  Loosely form a ball and roll it to coat in flour.  This is called a gluten cloak and will insulate the dough and help with the second rise.

Form your loaves and place them in 2 loaf pans sprayed lightly with non-stick spray.  Spray the inside of a large plastic bag (a plastic bread bag works well for this application and is available at most grocery stores) with non-stick spay and put the loaf pan inside.  Blow into the bag to inflate it and tie it closed with a bag tie or rubber band.  This will protect the dough from drying and will allow for room for the dough to expand.  You can also cover it with plastic wrap sprayed with non-stick spray.  This method will not allow the loaf to rise much over the loaf pan but will work as well.  In this picture I have used a large loaf pan so I could cover it with plastic wrap and still have rising room.

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Let dough rise until doubled.  I cannot estimate the time this will take as the temperature of your kitchen will dictate the rising time.  My kitchen is usually colder than most in the morning so this step can take up to 2 hours.  If your kitchen is warm it can take as little as 45 minutes.  Do not put the dough on your stove top as it will get too hot.

Adjust your oven racks to the middle of the oven put an empty pan on the bottom of the oven. Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees.  Make sure your oven is at the correct temperature.  Check it with your oven thermometer. Before you put your bread in the oven pour 1-2 cups of water in the pan at the bottom of your oven.  Be careful and use oven mitts as steam will immediately rise up from the hot pan.   The steam will help develop a crispy and chewy crust.

Put your bread in the oven and bake for approximately 30-40 minutes.  To make sure your bread is done use your instant read thermometer.  The bread will be perfectly baked at between 190-210 degrees.

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Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes.  Turn the loaf out of the pan with a kitchen towel protecting your hand.

Let cool for at least 1 hour on a rack.  The flavor developes during this time and your bread will not be as flavorful if you cut it too soon.  It will also lose steam and dry out quicker if you do not let it cool completely before cutting.  I know…this is hard to do when the bread looks and smells so lovely but have a little self-control and you will be delighted with the results.

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Whole Wheat Biscuits on Tray

Whole Wheat Biscuits…..  Don’t be fooled by the whole wheat in this recipe.  Full of heavy cream to create flaky biscuits, these are not low carb, low-calorie or low-fat but the whole wheat flour does add a nutty flavor to the biscuits that makes them fabulous tasting.

My post on Biscuits that will change you life has been very popular so I decided to get a little jiggy with the recipe and see what else I could do.

Yes, I do sing the Will Smith song, Gettin Jiggy with it,  frequently when cooking.  I can honestly say that Julia Childs, Jamie Oliver, and Escoffier are all inspirations to me in the kitchen but I would need to add Will Smith to be truly honest, since I am usually singing Gettin Jiggy with it in my head when I start to  get creative with a recipe.  Ok?  Whew, now that dirty little secret is out there…what, what…what?

Serve these flaky and delicious biscuits with soup, breakfast, brunch or just eat them right out of the oven. Quick and easy this recipe has become a staple in my kitchen.

Add herbs, cheese, honey or spice them up with finely minced jalapeno when you feel the need to get jiggy with it.

Whole Wheat Biscuits

1 1/2 cups or 9 oz all-purpose flour

1/2 cup or 3 oz of whole wheat flour (not the whole wheat white or pastry flour)

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Instructions

1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Whisk together flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl. Stir in the cream with a wooden spoon until dough forms, about 30 seconds. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and gather into a ball. Knead the dough briefly until smooth, about 30 seconds.  This dough likes to be kneaded a little bit. Some biscuit recipes call for you to handle the dough as little as possible but this recipe calls for a little kneading and it helps the dough raise up nicely.

3. Shape dough and roll out to desired thickness.  I usually roll it to 1/3 inch thick.  Cut out with a biscuit cutter or just cut into squares or triangles.

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Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking.

Variations:

Jalapeno Cheddar Biscuits  Add 1 tsp finely minced jalapeno, 2 tbs extra sharp cheddar into the dough at the end of step 2 when you knead the dough briefly.

Fresh Herb Biscuits  Add finely minced fresh herbs and kosher salt on  top before baking.

Honey Biscuits  Brush with honey butter before baking.

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I have been away from my blog for a while.  I hated putting it aside for so long (4 months) but needed to take some time off.  Much refreshed and ready to go I wanted to start back with a post about one of the hardest recipes I have worked with.  Corn bread muffins!

Fickle little devils.  I had to figure out how to make a great corn bread muffin.

I wanted a savory muffin that was light and had a good corn flavor.  The corn muffins I had tasted in the past have been overly sticky and sweet or dry and fell apart.  I was looking for a tender crumb, not too sweet and a good corn flavor.  It did not seem like it would be too hard to accomplish this.  I was wrong.

My first few attempts were complete failures.

After researching corn bread and corn bread muffins I found that the type of corn meal you use is very important.  You have the choice of a de-germinated corn meal or a whole corn meal.  The de-germinated meal made a bland tasting muffin with very little corn flavor and a dry texture.  The whole corn meal made a very dry muffin.  The whole corn meal was too dense for this recipe.

I was not sure how to solve this problem.  When I added real fresh corn the muffins did not fare much better.  I could get a light and moist muffin adding more flour and sour cream but it had very little corn bread flavor.

I thought about my granola bar recipe and how I lightened the whole oats by grinding a portion in my food processor and made oat flour.  Maybe I could lighten the corn meal by making a corn meal flour?  This worked perfectly.  I could use the more flavorful whole corn meal by grinding it in the food processor for about 5 minutes.  I made a light whole grain corn flour.

The recipe yielded a moist, sweet and tender muffin with the savory components of bacon and cheddar and the slight heat of chipotle powder.

Perfect for your holiday brunch.  Make mini muffins for a savory appetizer.

Bacon, Cheddar and Chipotle Corn Bread Muffins

Makes 12 Muffins or 24 Mini Muffins

10 oz unbleached all-purpose flour (I recommend King Arthur) or 2 cups

5 oz stone-ground cornmeal ground fine in the food processor (I recommend Arrowhead Mills) or 1 cup

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp sea salt

2 large organic eggs

4 oz sugar or 3/4 cup

7 tablespoons unsalted butter melted and cooled

3/4 cup sour cream

1/2 cup whole milk at room temperature

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese (use a dry cheese like Dubliner Sharp Cheddar for best results)

1/2 cup finely mined bacon cooked crispy

1/4 tsp chipotle powder or cayenne pepper

Make sure your oven rack is in the middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees.

Line your muffin tin with paper or foil muffin cups and spray cups lightly with non-stick spray.

Mix dry ingredients together, flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder and baking soda and whisk to fully combine.

In a separate bowl mix eggs and sugar together until thick and homogenous.

Add melted butter, sour cream and milk and whisk for about 30 seconds to add some air into the wet mixture.

Add cheese and bacon to dry ingredients and toss lightly to coat with flour.  This will help the bacon and cheddar stay suspended in the muffins instead of sinking to the bottom as they bake.

Add wet ingredients to dry and mix just until fully combined.  Do not over mix.

Let muffin batter rest for 5 to 10 minutes after mixing.  This will help develop gluten strands in the muffins and will make them lighter and puff up more in cooking.

Scoop batter into muffin tins and make sure the batter makes a dome.  Do not smooth the dome.  It will seem like you are filling the cups too high but this batter will not expand as much as other muffin batters.  Sprinkle the top of muffins with chipotle powder as needed for taste.

Bake muffins at 400 degrees until they are light golden brown.  About 15-18 minutes.

Let cool on a rack for 5 minutes.

I had always wanted to buy that bag of organic farro at Costco.  I would pick it up and just look at it but I would always put it back.  Nothing was coming to mind as to how I would use it.  I love it in soups but I am usually in a salad mood this time of the year.

I read this post from Orangette.  She used farro as a warm side dish with caramelized onions and feta.

I then saw this post from Epicurious.  This salad was a bit closer to what I was looking for.

I had some lovely grape tomatoes, a chunk of french feta and some kalamata olives.  I think you can see where I am going here…

I cooked the farro as per the instructions on the bag but added some herbs and garlic to the cooking water.  Make sure you cook the farro al dente.  It keeps a wonderful chewy texture and sweet flavor if you do not over cook it.

Letting it sit after being cooked in a bit of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and herbs overnight in your fridge is really the way to go.

I wanted to bulk out the salad and bit so I tossed some baby organic spinach in right before serving and poured some more olive oil over the salad.

Perfect.  Just the right combination of nutty grain, sweet tomatoes, salty olives and feta and the fresh bite of spinach.

Farro, Baby Spinach, Tomato and Feta Salad

Cooking the farro

1 cup dried farro

2 cups water

1/4 tsp granulated garlic

1/4 tsp dried thyme leaves

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

Bring water to a boil and add salt, garlic and thyme.

Add farro and boil until tender but not over cooked.  Al dente is just perfect for this grain.  Drain water and put cooked farro into a bowl with oil, vinegar and season to taste.  Let sit in your refrigerator until chilled or best yet leave it there overnight.

For the salad

1 cup halved sweet grape tomatoes

1/2 cup kalamata olives

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

5-6 cups fresh baby spinach

Toss farro with the above ingredients in a large bowl and serve.  Add more balsamic or olive oil as needed and season to taste.

Yesterday was bright and sunny when I woke up.  There was a bit of a chill in the air but overall it was sunny and clear.

I went up to the lodge and got the grill ready.  My mother in law, sister-in-law and nephew were coming up for Sunday brunch.

It was a perfect spring day.  I was even thinking we may set up a table on the deck and eat outside.  Was I wrong.   Weather can change fast in the mountains.

I starting grilling and decided to take some pictures from the deck.

It was warm and sunny.  Next thing I know I spot a white mass out over one of the hills.  It almost looked like smoke.

As the mass began to move and drift toward the lodge I realized the it was bringing a chilly wind.  It began to spread out and when it reached the lodge I realized it was snow.

Snow….in May.  Well I do live in the Rocky Mountains.

So here I am standing on the deck in cut offs and sandals grilling in the snow.  It made me laugh because almost every time I pull out the grill it starts raining.  I should grill more often since we are having a dry spring.

Thankfully I was done grilling and could move in a light the fireplace and relax with my family.

Ok, so back to the food….I was planning on featuring a summer salad.  This is a salad that we make nearly everyday during the summer.

But how can I feature a salad when it is snowing?  Shouldn’t I feature a stew or soup?  Well since the rest of the country is not blanketed in snow I will go ahead with my summer salad.  It kept snowing all night.  Most of the snow melted on impact but we got some great precipitation that was needed.

In the warm spring and summer months my  family enjoys salads nearly every dinner.  Sliced ripe red tomatoes, rich and creamy cheese, and bright fresh herbs is our favorite combination.

This salad is made with tomatoes (Compari vine ripe tomatoes from Costco), fresh mozzarella, balsamic, extra virgin olive oil and fresh thyme.

Fresh Tomato, Mozzarella and Balsamic Salad

The key to getting the best flavor from this salad is to thinly slice the mozzarella which can be done if you freeze it for about half an hour or until slightly firm but not hard.  With the thinner mozzarella you can marinate it with balsamic and olive oil and the flavor will permeate the creamy cheese.

8-12 vine ripe compari tomatoes (I used the tomatoes from our local Costco but the salad is best with fresh tomatoes in season)

1 lb fresh mozzarella ( I used Bel Gioioso brand)

1/4 cup good balsamic vinegar (I used my trusty Kirkland Signature Brand from Costco, yes I know I love Costco..)

1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove minced finely

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (you can also use basil, oregano or mint)

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Slice your mozzarella thinly and marinate with balsamic, olive oil and garlic.  Let marinate for at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours in your refrigerator. 

Slice tomatoes and arrange tomatoes, mozzarella with marinade and fresh herbs on a plate.  Drizzle a bit more vinegar and olive oil and top with fresh herbs.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.   Serve as a first course with crusty fresh-baked bread or as a side dish with a nice piece of grilled meat.

Here are a few variations on this salad:

Fresh tomato, feta cheese, mint and kalamata olives

Fresh tomato, feta cheese, oregano and kalamata olives

Fresh tomato, blue cheese and bacon and arugula

Fresh tomato, brie cheese and pancetta

More great tomato salad recipes:

This one from Jamie Oliver. (I just love how he uses tomatoes of different sizes and shapes.)

Or try this one from Martha.

Here is Elsies’ beautiful version of the tomato mozzarella combo.

I enjoy to just sitting and watching my tomato starts and dream that this season will be long enough for us to actually harvest some tomatoes.  Last year our crops froze before they had a chance to ripen.  We are much more prepared this year.  Wish me luck!

If I am not successful I will have the Boulder Farmers Market at my disposal and in late summer the farmers in the area will have a dizzying array of tomatoes to choose from.

Now I will resume my fresh tomato dreams…..

May is a busy month at Cal-Wood and I am cooking everyday but the blogging does not happen as much as I would like.  Today my mother in law, sister and nephew are coming up for brunch.  I will blog some of the menu items.  Here are some mountains pictures to enjoy until then!

In my quest to make everything from scratch that my family eats one of the items that has slipped from the list is crackers.  My husband and son love to eat cheese and crackers.  My son also adores cheese crackers like cheese its.  I decided to give crackers a try for Easter.

When I am trying a new recipe I google recipes for what ever it is I am making.  This is the best cookbook around.  As a professional chef many people ask what my favorite cook book is and I usually say Google.  The reason Google can be so powerful as a cookbook is that you can peruse many different recipes in minutes.  Then you can see what underlying themes or techniques are used.  At this point I will usually build my own recipe or try one from a respected source.

There are thousands of places to find recipes on the internet.  With recipe sites, blogs and food sites, lists can be endless.  How do you know which ones are any good?  Over the years there are a number of sites that I find are invaluable resources and I am sure the recipes are well written and tested.  Here is a list of sites that I find have great recipes every time.

www.cooksillustrated.com  If you are not familiar with Cooks Illustrated I encourage you to pick up a copy of the magazine at your grocery store or check out the website.  They literally test recipes many  times and find the best possible way to make each recipe.  On their website you can pay a small yearly fee and have access to hundreds of tested recipes for everything from cupcakes to pot roast. Money well spent in my household.

www.marthastewart.com  Now I am sure everyone is familiar with Martha.  Not only are her recipes good but the comments section at the bottom of each recipe contains comments from people who have made the recipe and what they found worked or did not work.  It is great information. Martha also has great recipes for the season with stunning photos.  This site is a great inspiration.

www.smittenkitchen.com   This veteran blogger has not only some of the most beautiful photos on the web but she is honest in her posts.  A good example would be her Everyday Chocolate Cake post.  She was not successful with her first attempt and discussed where she got her original recipe, how she tweaked it and what worked and what did not work.  This kind of information is great for home cooks and professionals alike. It is always good to learn from someone elses mistakes.

www.simplyrecipes.com  Another talented veteran blogger whose beautiful pictures and simple prose get right to the point and convey great information on how to make nearly everything.

www.realbakingwithrose.com  Rose Levy Beranbaum is the queen of pies and cakes.  She writes her recipes in weight measurement, she has adjustments for altitude and gives you just about any information you may need.  Her meticulous recipes have been a staple in my kitchen for years.  I usually consult one of her cookbooks or website where ever I bake anything!  Check out some of her cookbooks.  The Cake Bible, The Pie and Pastry Bible and Rose’s Heavenly Cakes.

www.davidlebovitz.com  The undisputed pastry king he writes a wonderful blog about making everything from appetizers, entree and baking all set in lovely Paris.  I have never made one of his recipes that failed.  All of his recipes are meticulously tested and documented.  This blog is beautiful, fun and informative.

There are also many different personal blogs that I follow but that is going to have to be another post.

So on with the cracker trials.  I decided to try a recipe that I found on www.foodnetwork.com.  This recipe is by Ina Garten.  Parmesan and Thyme Crackers.

On the first try the dough came out too dry.  This could be because it is a very dry climate here in the mountains.  I added a teaspoon of water and then the dough came together nicely in the food processor.

I chilled the dough and rolled it out with minimal flour on the rolling surface.  The dough rolled out nicely.  I used a flower shaped cutter and lined the baking sheet with parchment paper.  The crackers baked nicely and came out lightly browned.

They were delicious.  Much like a tiny and thin biscuit.  I recommend these crackers for entertaining.  A bit heavy for everyday snacking but great for a special occasion.  After Easter dinner some of my family and friends went home smiling with little bags of crackers for later.

Parmesan and Thyme Crackers

Inspired by Ina Garten

1 stick or 1/4 lb unsalted butter at room temperature

2 1/2 oz freshly grated aged parmesan cheese ( I used Parmigiano Reggiano – Riserva Stravecchio from Costco which is a great price and very tasty)

187.5 grams of all-purpose flour or 1 1/2 cups

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp dried thyme or 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

Place butter in the bowl of food processor.  Process until creamy.  Add cheese, flour, salt and thyme.

Process until dough forms a ball.  Dump the ball of dough out on a lightly floured surface.  Push down into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap.

Chill for half an hour.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator and roll out on a lightly floured surface.  Flouring your rolling-pin if needed.

Roll to about pie dough thickness.  You can roll it out thicker if you like.  They were good both ways.

Cut with a cookie or biscuit cutter.

Bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned about 20 minutes.

At Cal-Wood we literally go through hundreds of granola bars each week.  Since I first started at Cal-Wood a year ago I wanted to make the granola bars from scratch.  I started a few recipes last year but they were either too thick or fell apart.  I needed something that would hold together in a back pack but was not hard on the teeth.  My first trial recipes were also time-consuming and I had to keep labor costs down as well as cost of ingredients.  I scrapped the plan when we started getting busy for spring and summer and vowed to come back to it in the new year.

This year I have had success.  I researched different granola bar recipes on the internet and finally came up with one that was both chewy and sturdy.  This is a healthy snack treat that will keep the kids going with energy while out hiking.  My family loves these granola bars as a mid-afternoon snack while home-schooling.

The best part about these granola bars is that they are gluten-free and dairy free.  They taste great and kids on special diets do not feel like they are missing out.

Inspiration from Smitten Kitchen, King Arthur Flour and Ina Garten.

Granola Bars

1  2/3  Cups Whole Oats

1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar

1/3 Cup Oat Flour (process oats in food processor for 2-3 minutes until finely ground)

1/2 Teaspoon Salt

1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

2 Cups Dried Fruit and Nuts (optional)

6 Tablespoons Canola Oil

1/4 Cup Corn Syrup, Maple Syrup or Honey

1 Tablespoon Water

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8 inch baking pan with foil or parchment and coat with non-stick spray.

Stir together dry ingredients in a bowl.

In a separate bowl. wish together oil. liquid sweeteners, vanilla and water.  Add to dry ingredients.

Stir until combined.  Spread mixture into baking pan and press down until firmly molded into pan.  Bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.

Let cool for 3 hours or overnight before cutting.  Store in the freezer for best results.

Tasty Variations:  Add 1 cup dark chocolate chips and 1 cup coconut shreds to replace fruit and nuts.

Add 1 cups sliced almonds for fruit and nut mixture and substitute corn syrup for all maple syrup.

Add 1 cup dark chocolate chips and 3 tablespoons orange zest.

Add 1 cup toasted pumpkin seeds with 1 cup dried cranberries and substitute cinnamon for all spice.

Add dried mango, apricot and pineapple for 2 cups fruit and 1 cup coconut shreds for a tropical bar.

 

 

 

 

 

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