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October 2010

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Life in The Swamp

October 17, 2010

Before anything else, I want to say a big thank you for your helpful and reassuring comments and e-mails about my blog identity crisis. Knowing I’m not the only person to have these feelings made me realize I don’t need to make a formal decision about where I want Espresso and Cream to go. Instead, I’m going to keep cooking and baking, and when other events seem post-worthy, they’ll make their way to these pages, too. Case in point….

Friday night after work we flew down to Florida so J could attend his first ever Florida Gator game. And while some people may think it’s just football, for my dad and me it’s something more. For as long as I can remember, my dad and I have been watching and attending games together. When I was really little, our game nights consisted of ‘popcorn and fruit juice’ (fruit juice being an icy mixture of Five Alive frozen drink mix) and as I got older, watching the games on television gave way to going to games. 

It didn’t take long for me to realize that Florida Field, or The Swamp, was going to be one of my favorite places in the world. And over the years, that feeling has only grown stronger. It’s quite possibly the only place where I can just let go and forget everything besides here and now. The same applies for my dad – it’s obvious from the moment we set foot in the stadium.

Hopefully J will start to catch the bug, to really understand what it is I’m talking about. I think after his first game he’s one step closer. Because no matter what, a bad day at The Swamp is better than a great day anywhere else. 

Back tomorrow with a recipe for something you’ve probably had dozens of times but have never tried to make at home!

Madison

Confession and Cookies Time: Alfajores

October 15, 2010

Working as an editor makes writing as a blogger absolutely maddening at times. Throughout the day, I’m constantly thinking about editorial direction and cohesive themes to the pieces and recipes I’m putting into place. There’s a rhyme and a reason for everything, and every recipe serves a purpose.

But life as a blogger isn’t nearly as cut and dried. Blogs by their very nature are extensions of the people who write them, and just like people are multi-dimensional, so are their blogs. And as those people change, their blogs come along for the ride, since at its core a blog is really nothing more than a journal or sorts.

As my blog grows, I’ve been wrestling with the direction of Espresso and Cream, and to be honest it’s got me feeling a little bit lost. Some of my favorite blogs are those that paint a bright, vivid picture of the bloggers behind the scenes – their lives, loves, daily routines, and adventures – like The Front Burner, Eat Live Run, Kath Eats, and Carrots ‘n Cake. They’re the girls you feel as if you already know because they share a part of themselves in each and every post.

On the other side of the coin, there are the food bloggers I revere and admire for their jaw-droppingly beautiful photos, inventive recipes and beautiful prose: Smitten Kitchen, Orangette, Tartelette, and 101Cookbooks to name a few. You want them to mentor you, and teach you their brilliant secrets with cameras, food styling, and Photoshop.

As it is, I feel only a small potion of myself is shared here on Espresso and Cream. And just as I’d like to get to know you, the readers who make this whole thing worthwhile, I’d also like to share more of me on these pages but have hesitated for fear my blog will lose its direction, voice and personality. What does this all mean? I’m not entirely sure. Just bear with me as I try to sort it all out. What I can guarantee is that the recipes will keep on coming, and maybe a few extras, too.

Do any other bloggers out there have the same feelings from time to time?

Alfajores
Adapted from Gourmet Today
(Printable Recipe)

Ingredients
*1/3 cup cornstarch
*3/4 cup all-purpose flour
*1/4 tsp. baking powder
*1/8 tsp. salt
*8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

*1/4 cup granulated sugar
*1 large egg yolk
*1 Tbsp. Amaretto liquor
*1/2 tsp. almond extract
Caramel sauce, dulce de leche, or raspberry preserves

Instructions
*Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
*Whisk together cornstarch, flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.
*Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Beat in egg yolk, Amaretto, and almond extract. Stir in flour mixture until combined, adding 1 to 2 tablespoons more flour if dough is sticky. (Dough should be soft)
*Form dough into a disk. Roll out into 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out 18 to 22 rounds with a circle cookie cutter. Transfer to baking sheet, arranging rounds 1/2 inch apart.
*Bake until firm and pale golden around edges, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and cool completely.
*Spread about 1/2 teaspoon homemade caramel sauce or dulce de leche on flat sides of half the cookies and top with remaining cookies.

Happy Baking!

Madison

Back to Basics: Caramel Sauce

October 13, 2010
 
Let’s make a deal: if you make this caramel sauce sometime in the next couple days, I’ll be back on Friday with a tempting, mouthwatering way to use said caramel sauce. Well, besides just eating straight out of the jar with a spoon, that is. Go ahead and try it; I won’t judge.
Making caramel sauce has been on my list of ‘must make’ items for as long as I can remember. And now that I’ve finally done so, it seems silly to ever buy caramel sauce from the store again. What really surprised me about this homemade sauce was the difference between it and those prepackaged varieties. The depth and complexity of this caramel sauce blew me away, as if the color amber was finally given a taste and a name.
Caramel Sauce 
Adapted slightly from The Joy of Cooking via Yummy Supper  
Ingredients 
*1 cup sugar
*1/4 cup water
*8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
*1/2 cup heavy cream
*2 teaspoons vanilla
*pinch of salt 
Instructions
*Place sugar in a small heavy sauce pan. Pour water evenly over the top. Turn stove top to medium-high heat. Hold sauce pan by the handle and swirl occasionally until sugar has dissolved. (Avoid letting sugar burn until completely dissolved.) 
*Cover pan, turn heat to high, and boil for 2 minutes. Remove lid and continue to boil until syrup turns brown around the edges of the pan. Again grab the handle and swirl syrup occasionally until it turns a deep amber and begins to smoke.
*Remove pan from heat. Add butter. Gently whisk, until all butter is mixed in.
*Stir in cream. (If sauce become lumpy, set pan over low heat and stir until smooth then turn off heat again.)
*Stir in vanilla and salt.
*If a thin consistency is desired, serve immedeatly; caramel can also be stored in the refrigerator and heated up for 10 to 20 seconds in the microwave. 
Happy Cooking!
Madison

Back to Basics: Baked Doughnuts

October 11, 2010

Happy Monday!

Let’s get straight to the food, shall we? Maybe it’s a bit of a stretch to consider doughnuts part of this back to basics series, but for some people doughnuts are a basic breakfast staple. Me? I’m not a huge doughnut eater, but when I came across this recipe for a homemade version that’s baked instead of fried it intrigued me.

As with all things homemade, these doughnuts are different than those you might pick up at the store. They’re slightly denser than traditional raised doughnuts, and lighter than a cake variety. But for those of you whose idea of a good weekend breakfast doesn’t include a deep-fryer, they make a great alternative to what is traditionally available for purchase.

There’s a little time and effort involved in making doughnuts at home. It’s important to give them adequate time to rise, and then rise again once you cut them into rings. When I first started making them, I was doubtful the dough would rise enough since it seemed rather dense. But giving the full hour on the first rise, then 45 minutes on the second was the trick. And the result? Once I dropped them off at work they were gone in under an hour.

Cinnamon-Sugar Baked Doughnuts

The original recipe for these doughnuts comes from one of my favorite healthy living bloggers, Heidi Swanson of 101Cookbooks.com. Since this is one of those recipes that I didn’t change at all, I’ll shoot you over to her site for the recipe. You can get it and print it off here.

Happy Baking!

Madison 

Back to Basics: Eggplant (Baba Ganoush)

October 8, 2010
A few weeks back, I issued a challenge to J. – each week pick out one vegetable you’ve never cooked before and learn how to cook it. I promised to guide him through the process, thinking it would be a less-intimidating way to approach cooking and learning new skills. 
While I helped him cook asparagus over the phone, I decided I could use a bit of my own advice. Typically, unless I have a specific recipe in mind, I tend to buy the same veggies every week: broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, asparagus, lettuce, tomatoes, avocados, sweet potatoes and summer squash. Consequently, the eggplants, hot peppers and cabbages, among others, get overlooked. But not this week! This week was the week of the eggplant. 
When it comes to eggplant, I’ve found that people have some pretty strong opinions. You either love it, or you hate it – there doesn’t seem to be much wiggle room. I can’t put a finger on why this veggie is so polarizing, but I do think baba ganoush is the middle ground eggplant lovers and haters can meet at. For those unfamiliar with baba ganoush, it’s probably best described as eggplant’s equivalent to hummus. Used as a dip or spread, baba ganoush is a simple, healthy middle eastern staple. 
And since health is her specialty, I went to Ellie Krieger for the recipe. Of course, like most hummus recipes, this baba ganoush recipe called for tahini, or sesame seed paste. But I’m far too cheap to break down and buy an entire jar just to use a few spoonfulls, so I substituted a little bit of purchased hummus and called it good. The result was a slightly tangy, smooth spread with a zippy lemon finish that made a fresh compliment to toasted slices of French bread.
Side Note: A few months ago, I partnered with Better Homes and Gardens and General Mills to create and film some fun snack videos. They are up on the web now, and you can see them here!
Homemade Baba Ganoush 
Adapted slightly from Ellie Krieger’s Babaganoush
Ingredients
*1 large eggplant 
*2 cloves garlic, minced
*1/4 to 1/2 tsp. salt 
*1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or 2 Tbsp. dried basil
*2 Tbsp. hummus 
*2 Tbsp. lemon juice
*Bread or pita chips (optional)
Instructions
*Preheat oven to 450°F.

*Prick eggplant with a fork and place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake the eggplant until it is soft inside, about 20 minutes. Let the eggplant cool. Cut eggplant in half lengthwise, drain off the liquid, and scoop the pulp into a food processor. Process the eggplant until smooth. Add in the garlic, salt, basil, hummus and lemon juice and continue to process until well combined.
*Serve on toasted bread or with pita chips. Garnish with additional fresh or dried basil, if desired.

Happy Cooking!

Madison

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