Thursday, July 31, 2008

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A Meal In Pictures

I first saw "Egg-in-a-Hole" when I watched V for Vendetta. I thought this was so cool and such a unique way to make toast and eggs. I saw it again recently when The Pioneer Woman posted about it in the Cooking section of her website (here). It was after PW's post that I decided I had to make this breakfast for myself and I am so glad I did because it was quick and easy and delicious!







Wednesday, July 30, 2008

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Wordless Wednesday

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DB: Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream

The name of this month's Daring Bakers challenge is Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream. Doesn't that sound fancy? Doesn't it just roll off the tongue? Do you even know what it is? Well, let me tell you...

When I first saw the name of this dessert I had no idea what it was. It took me reading through the ingredients to figure out what this dessert is, which is basically a heavenly hazelnut cake. The cake itself, chosen by Chris of Mele Cotte, took me about 4 hours to make. I decided to make half of the recipe because a whole cake would have been too much for us and it would have pained me to see such a cake go to waste. Tackling the recipe was easy as long as you did it in parts and, believe me, there are a lot of parts to putting this cake together. I only made three modifications to this recipe and they were the use of regular, unsalted butter rather than clarified butter, the use of hazelnuts with their skins, and Amaretto as the liquor throughout the recipe. The first was because I didn't want to use up more butter to get 2 Tbsp of clarified butter (the process involves melting butter until it separates and then straining the liquid), the second was because I tried to skin some of the hazelnuts and it didn't exactly work out, and the third was because I have a bottle of Amaretto that needs to be used. The cake still tasted incredible to me, but I am curious to see if I would be able to taste the difference between my cake and one made with clarified butter and skinned hazelnuts. Because the cake had a ganache glaze it had a taste similar to a crunchy/nutty Nutella. The buttercream in the layers was completely balanced by the whipped cream in both texture and taste. I was actually surprised by how light tasting this dessert was. The funnest part about this cake was decorating and testing out my cake decorating skills. I was so impressed that I was able to make something that not only looked pretty, but also tasted great. Alex could barely believe that I made it :)

Thanks to Chris for making a great selection this month! Make sure to check out the Kitchen to get the scoop on us Daring Bakers and to go to this site to check out how everyone else did with this month's challenge.

Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream
From Great Cakes by Carol Walter

1 Filbert Genoise
1 recipe sugar syrup, flavored with dark rum
1 recipe Praline Buttercream
1⁄2 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
1 recipe Apricot Glaze
1 recipe Ganache Glaze, prepared just before using
3 tablespoons filberts, toasted and coarsely chopped

Filbert Genoise

Because of the amount of nuts in the recipe, this preparation is different from a classic genoise.

1 1⁄2 cups hazelnuts, toasted/skinned
2/3 cup cake flour, unsifted
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
7 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar, divided 1⁄4 & 3⁄4 cups
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1⁄2 tsp. grated lemon rind
5 lg. egg whites
1⁄4 cup warm, clarified butter (100 – 110 degrees)

Position rack in the lower 3rd of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10” X 2” inch round cake pan.

Using a food processor, process nuts, cake flour, and cornstarch for about 30 seconds. Then, pulse the mixture about 10 times to get a fine, powdery mixture. You’ll know the nuts are ready when they begin to gather together around the sides of the bowl. While you want to make sure there aren’t any large pieces, don’t over-process. Set aside.

Put the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, and beat until thick and light in color, about 3-4 minutes on med-high speed. Slowly, add 3⁄4 cup of sugar. It is best to do so by adding a tablespoon at a time, taking about 3 minutes for this step. When finished, the mixture should be ribbony. Blend in the vanilla and grated lemon rind. Remove and set aside.

Place egg whites in a large, clean bowl of the electric mixer with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed, until soft peaks. Increase to med-high speed and slowly add the remaining 1⁄4 cup of sugar, over 15-20 seconds or so. Continue to beat for another 1⁄2 minute.
Add the yolk mixture to the whites and whisk for 1 minute.

Pour the warm butter in a liquid measure cup (or a spouted container). * It must be a deep bottom bowl and work must be fast.* Put the nut meal in a mesh strainer (or use your hand – working quickly) and sprinkle it in about 2 tablespoons at a time – folding it carefully for about 40 folds. Be sure to exclude any large chunks/pieces of nuts. Again, work quickly and carefully as to not deflate the mixture. When all but about 2 Tbsp. of nut meal remain, quickly and steadily pour the warm butter over the batter. Then, with the remaining nut meal, fold the batter to incorporate, about 13 or so folds.

With a rubber spatula, transfer the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with the spatula or back of a spoon. **If collected butter remains at the bottom of the bowl, do not add it to the batter! It will impede the cake rising while baking.

Tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. You’ll know the cake is done when it is springy to the touch and it separates itself from the side of the pan. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack sprayed with nonstick coating, removing the pan. Cool the cake completely.

*If not using the cake right away, wrap thoroughly in plastic wrap, then in a plastic bag, then in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If freezing, wrap in foil, then the bag and use within 2-3 months.

Sugar Syrup
Makes 1 cup, good for one 10-inch cake – split into 3 layers

1 cup water
1⁄4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. dark rum or orange flavored liqueur

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the liqueur. Cool slightly before using on the cake. *Can be made in advance.

Praline Buttercream
1 recipe Swiss Buttercream
1/3 cup praline paste
1 1⁄2 - 2 Tbsp. Jamaican rum (optional)

Blend 1⁄2 cup buttercream into the paste, then add to the remaining buttercream. Whip briefly on med-low speed to combine. Blend in rum.

Swiss Buttercream
4 lg. egg whites
3⁄4 cup sugar
1 1⁄2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm
1 1⁄2 -2 Tbsp. Grand Marnier or liqueur of your choice
1 tsp. vanilla

Place the egg whites in a lg/ bowl of a elevtric mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until the whites are foamy and they begin to thicken (just before the soft peak stage). Set the bowl over a saucepan filled with about 2 inches of simmering water, making sure the bowl is not touching the water. Then, whisk in the sugar by adding 1-2 tablespoon of sugar at a time over a minutes time. Continue beating 2-3 minutes or until the whites are warm (about 120 degrees) and the sugar is dissolved. The mixture should look thick and like whipped marshmallows.
Remove from pan and with either the paddle or whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and sugar on med-high until its a thick, cool meringue – about 5-7 minutes. *Do not overbeat*. Set aside.

Place the butter in a separate clean mixing bowl and, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter at medium speed for 40-60 seconds, or until smooth and creamy. *Do not overbeat or the butter will become toooooo soft.*

On med-low speed, blend the meringue into the butter, about 1-2 Tbsp. at a time, over 1 minute. Add the liqueur and vanilla and mix for 30-45 seconds longer, until thick and creamy.

Refrigerate 10-15 minutes before using.

Wait! My buttercream won’t come together! Reheat the buttercream briefly over simmering water for about 5 seconds, stirring with a wooden spoon. Be careful and do not overbeat. The mixture will look broken with some liquid at the bottom of the bowl. Return the bowl to the mixer and whip on medium speed just until the cream comes back together.

Wait! My buttercream is too soft! Chill the buttercream in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes and rewhip. If that doesn’t work, cream an additional 2-4 Tbsp. of butter in a small bowl– making sure the butter is not as soft as the original amount, so make sure is cool and smooth. On low speed, quickly add the creamed butter to the buttercream, 1 Tbsp. at a time.

Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or can be frozen for up to 6 months. If freezing, store in 2 16-oz. plastic containers and thaw in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for several hours.

Praline Paste
1 cup (4 1⁄2 oz.) Hazelnuts, toasted/skinless
2/3 cup Sugar
Line a jelly roll pan with parchment and lightly butter.

Put the sugar in a heavy 10-inch skillet. Heat on low flame for about 10-20 min until the sugar melts around the edges. Do not stir the sugar. Swirl the pan if necessary to prevent the melted sugar from burning. Brush the sides of the pan with water to remove sugar crystals. If the sugar in the center does not melt, stir briefly. When the sugar is completely melted and caramel in color, remove from heat. Stir in the nuts with a wooden spoon and separate the clusters. Return to low heat and stir to coat the nuts on all sides. Cook until the mixture starts to bubble. **Remember – extremely hot mixture.** Then onto the parchment lined sheet and spread as evenly as possible. As it cools, it will harden into brittle. Break the candied nuts into pieces and place them in the food processor. Pulse into a medium-fine crunch or process until the brittle turns into a powder. To make paste, process for several minutes. Store in an airtight container and store in a cook dry place. Do not refrigerate.

Apricot Glaze
Good for one 10-inch cake

2/3 cup thick apricot preserves
1 Tbsp. water

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and preserves to a slow boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. If the mixture begins to stick to the bottom of the saucepan, add water as needed.

Remove from heat and, using a strainer, press the mixture through the mesh and discard any remnants. With a pastry brush, apply the glaze onto the cake while the cake is still warm. If the glaze is too thick, thin to a preferred consistency with drops of water.

Ganache Glaze
Makes about 1 cup, enough to cover the top and sides of a 9 or 10 inch layer or tube cake

**Ganache can take on many forms. While warm – great fudge sauce. While cool or lukewarm – semisweet glaze. Slightly chilled – can be whipped into a filling/frosting. Cold & solid – the base of candied chocolate truffles.

6 oz. (good) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, like Lindt
6 oz. (3⁄4 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
1 Tbsp. Grand Marnier, Cointreay, or dark Jamaican rum (optional)
3⁄4 tsp. vanilla
1⁄2 - 1 tsp. hot water, if needed

Blend vanilla and liqueur/rum together and set aside.

Break the chocolate into 1-inch pieces and place in the basket of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer into a medium sized bowl and set aside.

Heat the cream and corn syrup in a saucepan, on low, until it reached a gentle boil. Once to the gently boil, immediately and carefully pour over the chocolate. Leave it alone for one minute, then slowly stir and mix the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the cream. Carefully blend in vanilla mixture. If the surface seems oily, add 1⁄2 - 1 tsp hot water. The glaze will thicken, but should still be pourable. If it doesn’t thicken, refrigerate for about 5 minutes, but make sure it doesn’t get too cold!

Assembling Cake

Cut a cardboard disk slightly smaller than the cake. Divide the cake into 3 layers and place the first layer top-side down on the disk. Using a pastry brush, moisten the layer with 3-4 Tbsp. of warm sugar syrup. Measure out 1 cup of praline buttercream and set aside.

Spread the bottom layer with a 1⁄4-inch thickness of the remaining buttercream. Cover with 1⁄2 of the whipped cream, leaving 1⁄4-inch border around the edge of the cake. Place the middle layer over the first, brush with sugar syrup, spreading with buttercream. Cover with the remaining whipped cream.

Moisten the cut side of the third layer with additional sugar syrup and place cut side down on the cake. Gently, press the sides of the cake to align the layers. Refrigerate to chill for at least 30 minutes.

Lift the cake by sliding your palm under the cardboard. Holding a serrated or very sharp night with an 8-ich blade held parallel to the sides of the cake, trim the sides so that they are perfectly straight. Cut a slight bevel at the top to help the glaze drip over the edge. Brush the top and sides of the cake with warm apricot glaze, sealing the cut areas completely. Chill while you prepare the ganache.

Place a rack over a large shallow pan to catch the ganache drippings. Remove the gateau from the refrigerator and put it the rack. With a metal spatula in hand, and holding the saucepan about 10 inches above the cake, pour the ganache onto the cake’s center. Move the spatula over the top of the ganache about 4 times to get a smooth and mirror-like appearance. The ganache should cover the top and run down the sides of the cake. When the ganache has been poured and is coating the cake, lift one side of the rack and bang it once on the counter to help spread the ganache evenly and break any air bubbles. (Work fast before setting starts.) Patch any bare spots on the sides with a smaller spatula, but do not touch the top after the “bang”. Let the cake stand at least 15 minutes to set after glazing.

To garnish the cake, fit a 12 – 14-inch pastry bag with a #114 large leaf tip. Fill the bag with the reserved praline cream. Stating 1⁄2 inch from the outer edge of the cake, position the pastry tube at a 90 degree angle with the top almost touching the top of the cake. Apply pressure to the pastry bag, moving it slightly toward the center of the cake. As the buttercream flows on the cake, reverse the movement backward toward the edge of the cake and finish by pulling the bag again to the center. Stop applying pressure and press the bag downward, then quickly pull the tip up to break the flow of frosting. Repeat, making 12 leaves evenly spaced around the surface of the cake.

Make a second row of leaves on the top of the first row, moving the pastry bag about 3⁄4 inch closer to the center. The leaves should overlap. Make a 3rd row, moving closer and closer to the center. Add a 4th row if you have the room. But, leave a 2-inch space in the center for a chopped filbert garnish. Refrigerate uncovered for 3-4 hours to allow the cake to set. Remove the cake from the refrigerator at least 3 hours before serving.

Leftover cake can be covered with foil and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

All Done!

Pretty Slice.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

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TWD: Summer Fruit Galette

This week Michelle of Michelle in Colorado Springs chose Dorie's Summer Fruit Galette for us TWD bakers to make. I had been wanting to make a galette for a while now so I was pumped to finally get to make one. What I liked the most about this recipe was the flexibility in terms of the fruits you can use. In my case, I used nectarines, plums, cherries, and apricot preserves. I also used the leftover (frozen) dough I had from last month's Daring Bakers challenge as the base for the galette. The use of this dough lead to an interesting dessert because my galette came out more like a fruit pizza. While the dessert tasted good, neither Alex nor I were crazy about it. After much discussion about our reactions to this dessert and the last few desserts (cherry cobbler, blueberry pie), we have determined that we do not like desserts with baked fruits in them other than apple pie and banana bread. Sorry fruit. It's not you, it's us. We love to eat you just as you are, there's no need to cook or bake you. You are perfect right off the tree...

The Fruit.

Hello fruit!

The "Galette."

I actually took this week's recipe selection as inspiration for another summery dessert: Summer Danish Braid. I used the leftover fruit and poached them in an amaretto, water, and sugar mixture. Then I braided, baked, covered in powdered sugar, and photographed.

My mini-Danish Braid

The fruit was dying to get out.

Make sure to see what all the other bakers did this week on the TWD website.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

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Little Marbles of Goodness

I had been craving chocolate cookies for a while now, but after working on the desserts for Daring Bakers and TWD last week, I didn't want to go near my oven. My oven and I decided that we needed a break from one another. Nothing permanent; just a little time apart to reflect on how much we love and need one another. The break lasted a good 57 hours. The break might have been a little longer if the craving for chocolate cookies hadn't kicked back in. I decided to make a cookie recipe that I had seen in my Williams-Sonoma Desserts book. This cookie was so good and crumbly. I decided to use hazelnuts since I figured those nuts would really complement the chocolate. The cinnamon really does go a long way in these cookies and you can taste it in each bite. The powdered sugar not only makes the cookies look nice, but it also add another layer to the many flavors of the cookie.

Heidi's Chocolate Butter Crisps
Source: Williams-Sonoma

1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup finely chopped nuts (I used hazelnuts)
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, sift together the cocoa powder, cinnamon, and flour. Set aside. Place the butter and granulated sugar in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high until light and fluffy. Stir in the vanilla, nuts, and chocolate chips. Gradually stir in the flour mixture and combine thoroughly.

Scoop up rounded teaspoons of the dough in the shape of large marbles. Arrange the cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool for 2 minutes and then dust with confectioner's sugar.


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Nothing Tastes Better Than Quick Dinners

I love quick dinners. The kind of dinners you just throw together in a matter of minutes that come out tasting amazing. It feels great knowing that you can make an equally good meal in a matter of minutes as you would if you spent hours preparing the meal. I think quick meals are part of what makes cooking fun :)

Sundays are usually the days I make elaborate, involved dinners but today I felt like spending as little time in the kitchen as possible. I had no idea what to make and the only request from Alex was for dinner not to have beef in it since he ate so much beef this weekend. Great. That pretty much doesn't help. I looked through the cabinets and the fridge and decided to make a pasta with chicken. I sliced up chicken breasts and seasoned them with salt, pepper, and Italian seasonings and sauteed the chicken. Meanwhile, I cooked spinach pasta in a pot of boiling water and made a sauce of pesto, heavy cream, and grated parmesan cheese. This dish literally took 15 minutes to put together; it actually took more time to clean up and put everything away! It was a great dinner that left a lot of time for relaxing and enjoying a lazy Sunday.

I love how you can see all 3 parts in this picture.

All together.
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Obsession of the Week

As my summer vacation is dwindling down I can't stop thinking about what's going to start in 2 weeks: school. It didn't help that I bought my books this week and I have spent the week thinking, "Am I really going down this road again?" I haven't even started school and I'm already wondering when I'm gone to finally be done with school. I don't know how much more school I can take and whether or not I can actually make the synapses in my brain connect so that I can read all these books:

I think I made need help...

Friday, July 25, 2008

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TWD: Cherry Cobbler

It took my long enough, but here's this week's TWD selection courtesy of Amanda from Like Sprinkles on a Cupcake. I was very excited to make this recipe because it was simple and quick to put together. I was even more excited because I have never made a cobbler before and I have never had a cobbler before. Sometimes I think I grew up in some kind of dessert bizarro world. Since I couldn't find rhubarb at the store I decided to make an all-cherry cobbler. I had a weird response to this dessert: I thought the cherries tasted great and I thought the biscuits tasted great (I loved the ginger accent in each) but I didn't like the way it all tasted together. Something about the two didn't flow together to create salivary deliciousness for me. It's hard for me to describe since I have never had cobbler before and I have no idea how it's supposed to taste. Once again, I am going to have to wait for the cobbler expert (Alex) to get home and give me his review of this dessert. Make sure to check out all the other amazing blogs and their reviews of this cobbler on the TWD website!

The biscuit.

The cherries.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

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Stay Tuned...

My post for TWD's Cherry Cobbler is coming up tomorrow. There's no real excuse for why it's late other than I have been a hermit all week and I finally went out today to buy the cherries.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

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Got Milk? How About Arroz Con Leche?

I came across this cool event hosted by Linda over at Make Life Sweeter for World Breastfeeding Week. The event is called Got Milk? and you get to make any sweet dish you want as long as it has milk as an ingredient. Linda wanted to do this blog event to promote breastfeeding and I wanted to participate because I personally believe breastfeeding is important. If you are curious about the benefits of breastfeeding, I can send you the 15-page paper I wrote last Fall for my Infant & Toddler Development course :)

As soon as I saw the information for this event, I immediately knew what I was going to try to make. I say "try" because what I was going to do was try to replicate one of my mom's recipes. I called the woman up to ask for the recipe and, like any good recipe that has been in the family for decades, there are no measured amounts. I was told that to make the sweet dessert, Arroz con Leche (rice with milk), all I needed was rice, milk, butter, and condensed milk. Ok. Thanks mom! What was cool about this conversation was hearing my mom's history with this dish. When she was a little girl in Colombia she used to use Arroz con Leche as payment for getting out of household chores; she would give up her cup of Arroz con Leche to one of her siblings in exchange for a chance to sleep in during the week (she would wake up at 4:30am to get the homemade breakfast of arepas ready). She then told me about how thankful she is to live in the US because she can make Arroz con Leche whenever she wants and sleep in at the same time.

This dish came out great. Not exactly like my mom's but almost like it. I think the next time I am in Miami I am going to have her make it and I'm going to record it so that I can see every little thing that she does.

Arroz con Leche
Source: My Mom
Makes enough for 3-4 servings.

3 cups whole milk
1 Tbsp butter
1 cup of rice (I used long-grain)
1/2-3/4 cup sweet condensed milk

Combine the milk, butter and rice in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring the milk to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Stir constantly so that the rice does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Once the rice is tender and has soaked up most of the milk (
if the rice still isn't tender, add more milk 1/2 cup at a time), add the condensed milk 1/4 cup at a time until it reaches the desired sweetness. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Note: you can add raisins or queso blanco (like my mom does sometimes) and you can top it with cinnamon.

Rice being cooked.

All served and ready to eat.

Closeup of goodness.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

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China Sky is Delicious.

Last night Alex and I went to out favorite Chinese restaurant, China Sky. We had been looking forward to going there all week. We would have gone last week but with the Red Sox in town it makes it kind of hard to get in and out of the city and China Sky is located outside of Boston in the town of Wellesley. The first time we went to China Sky we were so impressed with their decor (very inviting, almost cafeteria-like) and their food (great prices, great portions). We really do look forward to going there every chance we get.

As soon as you sit down the waiters bring you warm tea and fried wontons with duck sauce. These wontons are so crispy and light that it's hard to resist not wanting to eat them all. Alex says that the main reason China Sky is his favorite restaurant is because of the fried wontons.

I ordered a Coconut Dram to drink with my dinner. This is a non-alcoholic drink that's like a tropical fruit punch with strong flavors of coconut and pineapple. The drink literally transported me back to the tropics. It was so good and refreshing and had a pretty pink hue to it.

We shared an appetizer of pan fried Pork Dumplings (they also offer them with vegetables). The dumplings were delicious! They were crispy on one side and soft on the other and with a perfectly portioned amount of pork in the middle. The dumplings came with a sweet soy sauce-like dipping sauce.

Because we like to try different things on their expansive menu we ordered three items for our entree. The first was their Chicken Amazing. This chicken has the perfect name because the dish is pretty amazing. It is chicken that is fried and then doused in a sweet and spicy red sauce. To make the dish even more beautiful they add vegetables such as red peppers and peas.

The second item was the Crispy Sesame Chicken. This dish is just as good, if not better, than the Chicken Amazing. The chicken is fried in a light batter and then tossed in a sauce that has subtle hints of orange flavors. The best part about this dish was that the chicken was indeed crispy. We have gone to several restaurants that claim to serve crispy items but once served, the item is more soggy that crispy. The textures and flavors of this dish were a pleasant surprise and a perfect dish for a summer night.

The last item we ordered was the Chicken Fried Rice (can you tell we like chicken?). This dish had a substantial amount of chicken and was perfectly seasoned with soy sauce. What I liked best about this dish was how tender all the vegetables were and how well everything blended together.

This visit was the first time we were offered some kind of dessert (ice cream). Each time we have gone before we have been told that they do not offer dessert. I'm assuming there has been quite a large amount of people requesting dessert.
Since we didn't anticipate a real dessert (they bring out orange slices and fortune cookies with your check) we ate until we couldn't eat anymore and left no room for anything other than fortune cookies. Maybe next time we will be a little more prepared to try whatever assortment of ice creams they may offer. But for now I think our palettes are pretty satisfied with the meal they savored last night, even if it wasn't topped off with something really sweet.
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I'm Scared of Knives

There I said it. I feel just a little bit freer after making that declaration. I seriously am terrified of them. I don't even like to look at them and I hate using them. But since Joelen of Joelen's Culinary Adventures has "Picture of Your Knives" as one of the July events to partake in, I'll tell you about the three experiences that have left me knife scarred for the rest of my life. The first incidence happened when I was a kid. I was trying to cut a mango and accidentally sliced my palm. Ouch. The second incidence happened when I was 16 and I was trying to sharpen a butcher's knife (I worked at Quiznos) and instead cut myself deeply by the thumb on my left hand. The last and most traumatizing incident happened a week after I graduated high school. I was trying to clean the meat slicer (again at Quiznos) and ended up slicing off the tip of my right index finger. I was rushed the emergency room, given a tetanus shot, and spent the summer laying in bed on pain meds. Thinking of that last experience still makes me cringe. Because of all of these experiences I refuse to have real knives in my house, much to Alex's dismay. Instead I rely heavily on my butter knives and some steak knives:

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I Need Guidance

How do you ship baked goods (cookies, cakes, cupcakes, tarts, etc)? What kinds of containers do you use to ship them? I'm trying to work on a secret project that involves shipping out my baked goodies, but I'm not too sure how to pack them without them getting damaged in transit. Thanks for all your suggestions!
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Restaurant Week!

Are you as excited as I am? Well, you should be! The second and third week of August are home to Restaurant Week. There are a lot of great restaurants participating this time around so make sure to get out and take advantage of three-course meals for $20.08 (lunch) and 30.08 (dinner). You know I will be! For the list of restaurants check here.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

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Morton's Stuff...Err...Steakhouse

While we were in Miami I received a flyer in the mail for Morton's Steakhouse's "Steak and Seafood for Two: $99 for Two" special. This is the absolute best offer because Morton's is normally a very expensive steakhouse ($30-$50 for entrees alone) and for $99 two people get to eat a whole meal comprised of salad, entree, side dish, and dessert. The first time we went to Morton's was when they where having their $99 offer close to two years ago. Because we are so naive we thought that the servings would be small, but oh no. They definitely don't skimp on the food and I personally think they should refer to themselves as Morton's Stuffhouse instead of Steakhouse. When we left that night we were both so full that it hurt to walk home. I literally had cramping because my stomach was having such a hard time digesting all that I had stuffed it with. I have never been so full in my life. I mean, I was uncomfortably full. I vowed never to let myself get that full again. So when we went back last weekend for the $99 special you would think that we would have learned from our last experience. Well, I was good and ate just enough to fill me up but not so much that I thought my insides were going to burst. Alex, on the other hand, was not so good. He stuffed himself so much that he actually had the urge to throw up (has that ever happened to you?). On the way home he kept saying that he felt like he was going to give birth to a cow and that he was never going to go to Morton's Stuffhouse again. Poor guy. A few tablets of Pink Magic (Pepto Bismal) and a couple of restful hours later, Alex was like brand new.

Now on to our meal...

The restaurant is gorgeous. It has such a warm and inviting feeling to it with all the cream colors and wooden accents. The service is great and unpretentious. As soon as you sit down they bring out a loaf of sweet onion bread and butter. The bread is warm and delicious. A perfect start to a great meal.

Next you have a choice of Morton's salad or Caesar salad. We both ordered the Caesar salad and Alex even tried to eat some of the salad because he felt bad not touching the heaping pile of Caesar dressing drenched romaine lettuce. And if you know Alex you know this is huge because he does not like salad ("it tastes like grass"). I thought the salad was great. The dressing was the best part of the salad because it was creamy and had a kick of Worcestorshire sauce.

For the entree you get a petit filet mignon and your choice of either crab cakes, shrimp alexander (like a shrimp scampi), or crab legs. We both ordered the steaks medium and they came out very pink, or at least very pink to my I-like-steak-well-done standards. I will admit that I ordered my steak medium because I figured Alex would eat whatever I didn't eat (he couldn't do it). While I thought the steak was tasty and tender I couldn't get passed the pink coloring. Alex thought his steak was great and thought it was even better drenched in the bernaise sauce the waitress brought out. As for the seafood, I ordered the crab cakes and Alex ordered the shrimp alexander. The crab cakes were phenomenal. They were so full of crab meat that I was impressed. Most of the crab cakes I have had before have had a dense amount of bread/cracker crumbs that it was almost difficult to discern whether or not there really was any crab in the crab cake. The shrimp alexander was 3 jumbo shrimps that were lightly coated in a crispy batter and soaked in a lemon sauce. Alex ate one of the shrimps and gave the other two to me. I was so thankful he gave me those two shrimp because they were delicious and fresh tasting.

In addition, you get a choice of any two sides. Since the sides are big enough to share we ordered mashed potatoes and sauteed mushrooms. The mashed potatoes were smooth and buttery and the mushrooms were "mushroomy" in Alex's words (I don't eat mushrooms so I have no idea how these tasted).

The highlight of this meal was the dessert. You have a choice between key lime pie and chocolate cake. Alex ordered the key lime pie and said it was amazingly good. I ordered the chocolate cake which was more like a molten cake sent directly from food heaven.

Overall the meal was incredible and filling. If you go and take advantage of this offer make sure to not eat for 3 days before your reservation.