Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Chocolate Raspberry Puff Pastry Bites

Puff pastry and I have a symbiotic baking relationship. It provides a flaky pastry in which I can use it to make ordinary ingredients look fancy - and then I take all the credit. There is just something about it that makes it look like you slaved away all day like a person with a lot of time or a pastry chef. 

Recently puff pastry has helped me out because I promised my husband I would make him a chocolate cake. A new chocolate cake recipe from the October issue of Martha Stewart Living. I promised him all weekend - and then I ran out of time. 

So today when I was home on my lunch hour I decided to call one of my cooking audibles and get out the remaining puff pastry sheet that I had left. I added some homemade raspberry jam and a handful (ok it was a packed handful) of semi-sweet chocolate chips. I put it in the oven and 20 minutes later after we finished lunch they were ready.

My husband said they were the best thing I ever made - that remains to be seen.

Chocolate Raspberry Puff Pastry Bites
1 sheet Puff Pastry cut into 6 squares
1 egg (egg wash) 
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 tbsp of raspberry jam

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Take the puff pastry sheet that is folded in thirds and cut three columns on the lines. Then cut each column into two pieces. On one side smear a tablespoon of jam and sprinkle chocolate chips. Put the other piece of puff pastry on top and crimp the edges with a fork. Brush the top with a beaten egg. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Project Foodbuzz Challenge #2: My Road to Ethiopia

In the summer of 1998, Ethiopian cuisine broke my heart.

I was a college intern in Washington D.C., working hundreds of miles away from home. Beyond the political climate—heated to the boiling point at the time due to the impeachment hearings—I was mesmerized by all that our nation’s capital had to offer and felt as if I had been dropped from a plane right down into the heart of a new universe.

One of my first experiences was waiting eight hours in the summer heat to see the Van Gogh exhibit at the National Gallery of Art. Glimpsing the legendary paintings up close was a once-in-a-lifetime thrill, but as an Italian girl who grew up surrounded by meatballs and lasagna and chocolate cannoli, what really fascinated me about Washington were the many varieties of unique and delicious food in the city. 

I tried Thai cuisine for the first time (coconut milk soup, Pad Thai, and succulent chicken satays) and went to my first open-air farmer’s market, but my greatest regret was that I never visited the neighborhood of Washington called Adams Morgan. While this vibrant nightlife area is teaming with delicious ethnic restaurants from every corner of the planet, like many college students I had little money and had to discipline myself to survive on a thin budget.

On the night of my heartbreak, three of my friends invited me to a popular Ethiopian restaurant that was recommended by one of our favorite teachers. I had wanted to try this type of cuisine since my early teens, but regretfully told my friends to go on without me.

While my friends were gone, I waited patiently, counting the minutes and imagining the good time they were having. As soon as they returned, I listened for what seemed like hours as they described the flavors of the food, how each dish tasted and what the texture felt like with every delicious bite….and I clung to every word as if I were being given the secret to life.

Hearing my friends describe the Ethiopian restaurant made my eyes and mouth water and I went to bed that night with a heavy heart. I made a vow to someday return to Washington and eat at every Ethiopian restaurant in the city and to try every item on every menu, twice. Maybe three times.

Fast forward 12 years (did I really just type that?) and I was at my corporate desk on a Friday afternoon, submerged in data mining and analysis when I received the long-awaited details of my next Project Foodbuzz Challenge.

The assignment was to research and write about a classic dish from an unfamiliar ethnic cuisine, and the memories came rushing back as I thought about that hot summer in Washington and the promise I made to myself.

Ethiopian cooking, we were destined to be together. Let’s fall in love.

As I began my research, I was surprised to discover that aside from being delicious, Ethiopian cuisine has an interesting history as well. Early on, traders traveling from Asia to Europe introduced spices to the region, although Ethiopian cooking has had little influence from other cultures since that time. Spices are essential to Ethiopian culture because they make it possible to preserve meat in a country where few families have access to refrigeration.

Berbere is the traditional, spicy paste that Ethiopians use to preserve and flavor meat. According to Ethiopian tradition, a woman with the best berbere has the best chance of landing a husband.

Besides spices, you won’t find a lot of pork in Ethiopian recipes. Meat is represented in the form of wat (or wot), which is a thick stew on top of injera—a spongelike bread that resembles a crepe and is made with teff. Teff is a gluten-free grain native to Ethiopia that is extremely high in fiber and other minerals. One cup of teff has more calcium than a glass of milk. Injera is the most interesting of the three ingredients. You combine the teff and water a couple of days ahead of time to allow it to ferment, which results in an incredible sourdough taste. For the career-girl version, I recommend this recipe since it's more forgiving and you don't have to let the teff ferment overnight. The traditional injera uses teff flour and water and is left to ferment overnight. Cook the injera like a crepe but not on both sides. The uncooked side will be the side you will pour the wat over. (The extra injera you can roll up and use as a spoon to eat.)

With the excitement of new romance spurring me on, I decided to explore Ethiopian cuisine further by cooking Doro Wat—the classic chicken stew with the traditional flatbread (injera).

To cook this dish authentically I made berbere from scratch by combining the spices together. The negative? It seems like a lot of ingredients and a little overwhelming. The upside? This spice mixture is great as a rub on chicken, beef, and lamb. So mix it together and keep it in an airtight container and use it later.

This traditional Ethiopian meal was zesty, fragrant, and playful. With each bite, I felt as if I was tasting a thousand different colors. The spices were beyond delicious and I loved the spongy injera paired with this stew. I also decided to pair this dinner with a traditional honey wine, also native to Ethiopia.

In every way, Ethiopian cuisine was worth the 12-year wait.

I missed out on that trip to Adams Morgan as a college student, but by cooking a traditional Ethiopian meal in my own kitchen on a Saturday night, I finally mended my broken heart and developed confidence in cooking a new ethnic cuisine outside of my comfort zone.

Best of all, I went to sleep with a satisfied smile, licking my lips and dreaming about all the new recipes I could make for my friends and loved ones in the weeks to come.

Mission accomplished, baby. 

Honey Wine:
3 cups white wine (I used a crisp Chenin Blanc)
3 cups water
6 tbsp honey

Combine all ingredients in a decanter and stir until the honey dissolves. I found it to be better at room temperate.
Injera Recipe:   
  • 1 1/2 cups ground teff  
  • 2 cups water  
  • Salt, to taste 
  •  Vegetable oil, for the skillet

Mix the ground teff and water together in a bowl with salt to taste. Whisk to prevent lumps. Cover and allow to sit out overnight to allow the dough to ferment. This will give it a sourdough/tangy taste. Put a tablespoon of oil to cover your skillet. Pour the batter in the pan like you would a crepe. Only cook on one side. The uncooked side will be the side that will face up on the platter when you put the Doro Wat on top.

        Doro Wat (recipe from Epicurious.com)

  • 2 medium red onions, diced
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup Spiced Butter (or 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom, preferably freshly ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cloves
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • One 1 1/2-inch piece ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Berbere
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock, divided
  • One 4-to 5-lb chicken, cut into 10 pieces, wings reserved for another use
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled

Combine the onions, a pinch of salt, and half of the spiced butter in a Dutch oven or other large deep pot over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden, about 15 minutes. Add the remaining butter, the cardamom, black pepper, cloves, garlic, ginger, and berbere and cook until the onions soften and take on the color of the spices, about 10 minutes. 

Add 2 cups of the chicken stock and the chicken legs and thighs, bring to simmer, and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 cup chicken stock and the wine, bring back to a simmer, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the chicken breasts and simmer for 20 minutes.

Gently stir in the lime juice and eggs and simmer for another 5 minutes. The sauce will be loose and soupy. Season with salt to taste.

Project Food Blog is the first-ever interactive competition where thousands of Foodbuzz Featured Publishers are competing in a series of culinary blogging challenges for the chance to advance and a shot at the ultimate prize: $10,000 and a special feature on Foodbuzz.com for one year. To vote for me click here

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Breakfast Polenta

It's been awhile but my Weekend Breakfast Series is back.  

I usually keep a collection of online recipes that I find.  When I need something new, I delve into this collection. The recipe I chose is great for a few reasons. The best reason, is that it has a way to cook polenta in a 13x9 baking dish. While I don't mind making polenta on the stove, I prefer this method for breakfast so I can enjoy my morning coffee, instead of babysitting it. For those working girls like me who are always looking to multi-task when they are at home, this method can be used for polenta at any meal.

While this recipe is labled "Breakfast" this is a great idea for any meal including brunch.

Breakfast Polenta (Bon Appetit December 2004)
  • 1 1/3 cups crumbled queso fresco or feta cheese (about 6 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 1/4 cups water
  • 1 cup polenta (coarse yellow cornmeal) or regular cornmeal
  • 1 1-pound bag frozen yellow corn kernels, thawed
  • 1 pound fresh link chorizo sausage, casings removed
  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes (about 3 1/2 cups)
Preheat oven to 425°F. Toss cheese and cilantro in small bowl. Mix 3 1/4 cups water, polenta, and corn kernels in 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and stir to blend well. Bake until water is absorbed and polenta is tender, stirring once, about 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, sauté chorizo in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat until browned, breaking into small pieces with side of wooden spoon, about 6 minutes. Add cherry tomatoes to skillet. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until tomatoes soften, about 6 minutes. Uncover; crush some tomatoes with fork. Simmer until tomatoes release juices and sauce thickens slightly, about 10 minutes. Spoon polenta onto plates. Top with chorizo mixture, then cheese mixture.

Plum Tart

I'm still in love with Plums. 

In an earlier post I spoke about how, as a child, I was never a huge fan of plums. Then I decided to try them as an adult and I realized they were a delicious stone fruit worthy of attention on my blog. I've already made plum jam and even incorporated them into my breakfast pancakes.
A plum tart was always going to be part of the equation eventually. So armed with my puff pastry I decided to make another batch of my plum jam and layer sliced plums on top. Its an easy fruit dessert that takes so little time and is worth the effort.

Plum Tart
1 cup Plum Jam
1 puff pastry
5 plums sliced thin

Unfold the puff pastry and dust with flour. Roll out puff pastry to a smooth rectangle and then cut 1 inch off each side and stack it on the edge. (provides height on the sides so the filling doesn't run out) Spread the jam over the interior of the puff pastry. Fan the sliced plums in rows. Bake at 400 degrees for roughly 20 minutes until until the pastry is cooked through and becomes a lovely golden brown.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Project Food Blog - The Beginnings of The Nesting Project

“Tiffany, are you out of your mind?”

I hear that comment a lot from my friends, usually when they’re at my house for a grilled-pizza party or summer gelato get-together. They show up eager to help, then find everything prepared and ready to be devoured. They ask me:

“How do you work late every night and still enjoy entertaining and making manicotti and meatballs for 30 hungry people? I’m so wiped out after work I can barely press the buttons on the microwave. And honestly, if I had the time and energy, I’m not sure I even know how to cook.”

I understand where my friends are coming from because I was once in the same place. And that’s why I started my blog, “The Nesting Project.”

I knew that if more people felt comfortable in the kitchen, more would love cooking. Mastering your kitchen is about being willing to try new things and to fail as spectacularly as you succeed.

Maybe my friends are right and I am loco, but even when I’ve had a tough week at work I love the thrill of hosting a big party and then trying new recipes like Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic of Beef Bourguignon. I can never play it safe.

I get my adventurous spirit from my mother, who was one of many strong Italian women in my childhood. Mom wasn’t taught to cook until the night before she got married, when she got a crash course from my grandmother in making lasagna and other Italian essentials. 

Delicious food was the center of my childhood. My mother would always have homemade chocolate pudding or brownies waiting for us when we got home from school. Her cooking convinced me that delicious food could make people happy and help them forget about the stress of daily life.

Although I loved my mother’s Italian food, my passion for cooking didn’t fully ignite until I fell in love and got married. I wanted to thrill my husband with my favorite childhood recipes, such as homemade chocolate pudding, cinnamon bread, and stuffed shells with Italian sausage.

At the same time, I was working as an innkeeper at a Bed & Breakfast and learned all I could from the head chef—a colorful character who used classic French techniques. He made it his mission in life to teach me his approach to Southern classics like Red-Eye Gravy and Asiago-Cumin Grits. Every night was an adventure that left my taste buds dazed and deliriously happy.

And then someone blew out the candles.

I entered the corporate world and fell into the trap that so many of my friends had been in for years: wanting something delicious for dinner but always too eager to curl up defeated with a pint of pistachio ice cream. Cooking and baking from scratch seemed like some far-off planet out of Star Wars that was completely unreachable.

My ice-cream dependency lasted about three months and then one night as I was driving home through the rain I decided, “No more.”

I knew I needed to leave time in my nights for cooking and baking. Otherwise, my life would continue as a never-ending hamster wheel of charts and analysis. I vowed that I was going to have my chocolate cannoli and eat it too:

I would reclaim my kitchen.

To chronicle my adventures of a career girl trying to find a balance between home and work, I created this blog. I wanted to share made-from-scratch recipes with a few ingredients that all come together beautifully to make a delicious dish. 

I have five basic Nesting Project tenets that I stand by to help a career girl navigate the cooking-and-baking universe:

Go all out on breakfast. The first special meal should be breakfast when you are free on the weekends and have more time. Most classic morning meals can be made with a few simple ingredients.

Large dinners are the gift that keeps giving. Roasts, casseroles, soups, etc., should be made on Saturday or Sunday and then you can have the gourmet leftovers or repurposed meals during the week.

When you are baking or cooking, double the recipe and freeze some. The more you make now, the less you make later.

Experiment but start small. instead of taking on a two-layer cake with icing, try a chocolate Bundt cake with drizzle icing. Once you feel more confident you can move on to the layer cake.

Learn techniques not recipes. It’s the whole “teach a man to fish” lesson. Learn how to cook meat properly and deglaze the pan for a quick sauce, and you’ve also learned a great way to cook dinner in a short amount of time. Then you can use whatever ingredients you have in your pantry instead of being tied down to a particular recipe.

My blog is now a resource for cooked/baked-from-scratch recipes that busy working girls can have fun with and enjoy. My hope is that after making one of my recipes, any woman can feel like a domestic goddess.

My mother’s early cooking adventures live on in my kitchen most nights of the week. My whisk is my weapon, and I use it to create recipes that bring joy to the people in my life. I believe a delicious meal is the perfect antidote to a tough day in the office.

I know if I’m chosen as the next Food Blog Star I will take delight in helping career girls (and guys) navigate the landscape of cooking and baking while managing a career.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got guests coming over in a few hours and I have to find a new recipe!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

My Favorite Pancake Recipes

Recently my mother and sister both acquired stoves with a built in griddle.

I am very happy for them and very sad for myself...Having a built in griddle is a great idea because if you are not making pancakes for breakfast on the weekends you are missing out on a great ritual.  Nothing says weekend like pancakes for breakfast.

Before you get out that pancake mix, I need to tell you why that is a bad idea.  I find that all you have to do is use self-rising flour and you take out the need for a mix.  You are actually making it from scratch. They taste better too. There is one hitch. It includes buttermilk. Now before you skip over this post let me tell you that I agree with you. I always avoided recipes with buttermilk - until I found other recipes that used it and warranted keeping a small quart in my refrigerator. Buttermilk makes biscuits and cakes perform at a different level. Buttermilk also has a much longer shelf life than regular milk and the taste it gives to the pancakes you can't get in regular milk.

Besides the mechanics of the recipe, I have to tell you that once you use this base recipe you can be creative and change it based on what you have in your pantry. You can add bananas, strawberries, blueberries, coconut - any number of ingredients to get a different type of pancake. Once you make the base just be creative and have fun with it. Here are a few of my pancake recipes that use this recipe.

Base Pancake Recipe
2 cups self rising flour
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Combine ingredients and whisk in a mixing bowl. Cook in a skillet with 1 tbsp of butter on medium. Makes roughly 8 large pancakes or 16 small.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Pappardelle with Bacon Cream Sauce

Friday meals need to be two things: easy and indulgent.

I'm ready to have a fantastic meal on Friday night because I'm ready to celebrate the end of another week and a couple of days of rest. However, there is still one factor to consider - I'm tired. 

Recently, there is a meal I've started making when I get home on Friday nights that fits both criteria:  Pappardelle with a Bacon Cream sauce.

Pappardelle is a wide noodle and egg based pasta. It tastes delicate yet really compliments this sauce.  I don't use it everyday so it feels special to use it for this type of meal. I really don't have a lot to explain with the Bacon Cream sauce except that I use grated aged gouda to really give the sauce some flavor.  Besides that it speaks for itself.

Have another great weekend everyone.

Pappardelle with Bacon Cream Sauce
8 oz Pappardelle 
5 oz bacon chopped
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
4 oz aged gouda

Boil the Pappardelle pasta according to the instructions. (It usually won't take long so make sure you time it right with the sauce) Put the chopped bacon on medium high in a skillet and cook until crispy. Remove the bacon and pour off grease. Then add the heavy cream to deglaze the pan and reduce down until thick. Add the cheese and stir until melted and incorporate. Pour over the pasta and top with the bacon.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Steak and Egg Breakfast Sandwich

Not all of my blog posts are going to be sexy. Some of them are going to show you that sometimes you have to roll with the punches and get creative. Sometimes its easier than others. Like this story.

Some things make no sense to me - like when you see three Filet Mignons in one package. So when I sent my husband out for preparations to make our anniversary dinner and he came back with a package of three Filet Mignons, I was annoyed. Four I can understand, three I do not. I'm into even numbers. I can even see the reasoning behind one steak but not three. But I digress.

Either way, the next day I had a leftover steak. 

So on Sunday morning when I was deciding on what I would cook for breakfast, I thought about the leftover steak. So I made it super easy on myself and made it into a steak and egg sandwiches for both of us. Filet Mignon for breakfast is definitely the way to go. 

Steak and Egg Breakfast Sandwiches
1 Filet Mignon steak
6 eggs
4 slices of fresh bread (Italian, Ciabiatta)
Salt and pepper to taste

Just slice and fry up the steak on medium. Once the steak is nearly cooked, add about 6 eggs beaten into the pan. Season with salt and pepper and slice some fresh bread to put the steak and eggs between.

I'm a fan of the three steak package now. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Foodbuzz 24x24: Labor Day Weekend Gelato Party

This special blog post today is sponsored by both Foodbuzz and Electrolux. Electrolux has committed $750,000 to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, and Foodbuzz is getting involved not only by sponsoring all the 24x24 posts, but also by donating a matching amount to the OCRF.

Since I had a party that celebrated Earth Day and the Spring that had sprung, I thought it was only fitting that I hosted another party that said goodbye to summer. In the Southeast we had a very dry and hot summer. In fact, I've never spoken to more people looking forward to winter in all the years I've lived up north (I'm from South Florida originally so you'll understand my perspective)

At least the last few weeks of summer have been in the high 80's and low 90's. It makes me almost sad that summer is drawing to a close. Where did the time go? So in honor of the summer of 2010 it seemed perfect to have a fun gelato block party in order to send it out in style.

In fact the whole party menu was gelato. However we did add some liquid refreshments to bring a little celebratory element.  (Ahem...Prosecca)

So, as I was planning this gelato menu I wanted to provide all the favorites with a couple of unusual flavors that no one would expect.

I arrived at this final menu:

Chocolate Gelato
Vanilla Gelato
Nutella Gelato
Strawberry Basil Gelato
Lemon Gelato
Goat Cheese and Bacon Gelato
Parmesean Gelato

Along with these flavors I added a few toppings so people could customize their own:
Crushed up meringue
Fig Jam
Chocolate sprinkles

I know what you're thinking. Goat cheese and bacon gelato? I know, but it tasted creamy and had a great smokiness from the bacon. If you don't go into it thinking its going to be sweet but more of a chilled cheese sauce, it works better.

But besides the gelato we had a great time with our neighbors laughing and chasing the kids with super soakers and sometimes even Sprite (ok it got a little out of hand). My husband truly enjoyed his favorite flavor, Chocolate Gelato in which I added 8 oz of bittersweet Ghiradelli chocolate after I took it off the stove.

All in all we polished off 8 quarts of gelato and countless tiny marshmellows.
It was a perfect way to end summer.


For my recipes I used a normal gelato base which consisted of:
5 egg yolks
2 cups of milk
1 cup of heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla (for sweet flavors)

Heat the cream and milk together on medium heat until it gets hot and bubbles towards the edges but doesn't boil. Mix the eggs, sugar and vanilla in a separate bowl. Add in a small stream the milk/cream mixture into the egg mixture while you mix (fast). This will raise the temperature of the eggs so they won't scramble when you put the mixture back on the stove. I've scrambled them many times. So my best trick is to take a large ladle and pour it in that way. It ensures you don't pour too much of the hot mixture into the eggs.

Once the milk/cream mixture and eggs are one then return it back into the sauce pan and cook until it gets thick and coats the back of a spoon (Its a litle runnier than a pudding consistency) Take off and strain into a bowl to cool to room temp. Refrigerate for about two hours and then freeze in an ice cream maker.

Chocolate Gelato - when you take the mixture off the stove add 8 oz of bittersweet chocolate (it will melt right away) stir until completely melted and incorporated.

Lemon Gelato - Add juice of 1 lemon and 2 tbsp of lemon zest after you take the mixture off the stove

Strawberry Basil Gelato - Puree 2 cups strawberries with a handful of basil in a blender. Add this puree to the base after its chilled in the refrigerator and before you put in the ice cream maker

Goat Cheese Bacon Gelato - Add 4 slices of cooked bacon (chopped) to the milk/cream mixture. After you've combined the milk/cream with eggs and returned it to the stove add 5 oz. of Goat cheese. Once mixture is ready to be strained the bacon will get removed and you will be left with an amazing smoky flavor.

Parmesean Gelato - Add 5 oz grated Parmesean to the egg/milk/cream mixture and let it melt completely before you take off the stove and strain into a bowl.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Anniversary Dinner

Seven years ago today I married my best friend. No really, we were best friends for years before we ever had a date. For a brief while, we had a whole When Harry Met Sally moment of friends vs. more than friends. Then we fell in love and it didn't seem so weird to be dating your best friend. 

We have have had a wild ride in those seven years. Our life has been an action packed combination of scenes from The Money Pit; Planes, Trains and Automobiles and probably a few more hair brained movies you've seen but thought "that could never really happen."

One of the most important things that that someone said at our wedding that I've always held onto was said by my husband's cousin, Antone Davis -  "It's you two against the world...Stick together and you'll make it through." So throughout the good times and bad we've always stuck together and laughed our way through it. It's served us well. 

To celebrate our anniversary we've done some wonderful dinners at restaurants, but this year I decided to make a great dinner at home. I've said this before, but for husbands I've never found a better idea for a romantic dinner that is better than a great piece of meat. With this being said, I decided to make Filet Mignon with a blue cheese sauce and gingered corn.

First you have to cook the Filet. I cooked it in a pan on medium high for 6 minutes per side for medium rare. Then I poured 1 1/2 cups heavy cream in the pan after the steaks were done in order to deglaze it. I reduced the cream down to a thick sauce consistency and added 5 ounces of blue cheese.

For the corn I sauteed 3 cups with a tbsp of butter and olive oil. Then I grated 1 tbsp of ginger and added it into the pan. I added salt and pepper to taste.

It was a simple meal to enjoy for seven wonderful years.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Fig Jam

Imagine my happiness when I saw beautiful ripe brown figs at the grocery in the midst of the Labor Day weekend rush. Although I was ready to buy all the fig stock that they had on hand, I was reserved and only bought two pints.

Figs are one of the more perfect fruits of the fall season. Wonderful on their own, but also a great addition in a variety of desserts. Lately, I've been on a skillet jam kick so I decided to take a pint of these beauties and make them into a jam. The result was a faint reminder of the fig newtons that I loved as a kid only fresher and more delicious. I highly recommend making figs part of your fall fruit season. When you do, take one pint of them to make this skillet jam.

What happened to the other pint? Well you'll have to stay tuned for that. Hope everyone is having a wonderful Labor Day weekend!

Fig Skillet Jam
1 pint ripe brown figs
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup sugar

Quarter the figs and place them in the skillet on medium with lemon juice and honey. Once they are heated up and start to fall apart take a potato masher and mash the figs. Stir the figs, and add the sugar. Cook on medium until the mixture reduces and has a thick jam like consistency.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Chocolate Fridays - Birthday Brownies

On Wednesday my best friend had a birthday. Cake is not good enough for this type of occasion. This occasion warrants her favorite dessert- Ina Garten's recipe for Outrageous Brownies. They are the only brownie recipe I will make anyways, because once you've found the perfect brownie recipe, what is the use of trying another one? That sounds like foodie sacriledge, but there it is... So, one of my presents to her was to gift the entire pan of brownies (minus the couple I used for this photo).

Happy Birthday to my best friend who sits on my front stoop when I want to rant about my bad week and who shakes her first at the world for me when I've had enough. Happy Birthday to my best friend who introduces me by talking about my blog (she is a born promoter) and who is my sewing & knitting class buddy (and witness to some obnoxious classmates that almost push me over the edge).

Happiest Birthday to You....And countless more.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Garden Inspiration

Sometimes you need to decorate your garden the same way you decorate your home.

There are some neat ideas I've used over the 6 year life span of my first real garden. There is nothing stopping you from using items you would decorate your home with and placing them in the garden. For instance, I have a number of candle holders of all shapes and sizes. So I've placed a few of metal ones in my garden to provide visual interest. When guests come over I will even place candles on them lighting the way to our door...

Another great idea is taking broken dishes and pitchers and placing the pieces in the garden. If you have tinier pieces you can press them into the ground and create a mosaic.

Besides using dishes, and candle holders I also like to add traditional garden items. I've also been lucky enough to get pieces from friends who are artists to be a little avante garde. Take this piece from my father-in -law who works with copper. He made this ballerina for me and I've always loved displaying it in the garden close to the walkway up to my house.

Sometimes the best items to decorate your garden, you already own. Make your garden another room you can decorate and you'll have a lot of fun doing it.
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