Wednesday, September 30, 2009

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Halfway Point

When did this happen? Did I go to sleep and wake up 20 weeks later? I can't believe I am halfway through my pregnancy. I also can't believe it has taken me this long to feel like I have some kind of routine back in my life. To say that the last 20 weeks of my life have been chaotic is an overstatement, but things have felt a little out of control. It's been harder to adjust to being back in Miami than I even imagined. The demands on me now are different than they were four years ago and I have found myself trying to assert and preserve the independence I had in Boston. Sure, this involved me getting upset with Alex and feeling like I was lecturing him on the importance of our family unit, but at least I feel like I have a little more clarity, more voice in how I want my Miami life to be. So now I feel like the routine is back or at least the beginning of a routine is back. And this is extremely important to me because in 20 weeks time we are going to have to adjust again and get a new routine set in place.

The belly this week.
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Pomegranate Italian Ice

While the rest of the country is experiencing the beginnings of fall and drop in temperatures, Miami is experiencing the continuance of summer. It's hot, humid, rainy, and I'm starting to get excited when I see that our temperatures will be dipping into the mid-80s. It's still ridiculously hot but at least the temperatures aren't flirting with record temperatures. This pomegranate treat is perfect for the hot days we've been having here and a fun alternative to dairy-based frozen treats.
Pomegranate Italian Ice
Adapted from Sherry Yard's Desserts By the Yard

1 1/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup pomegranate juice (I used POM Wonderful)
3 6-oz ramekins

Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Stir in pomegranate juice and pour into ramekins. Freeze until solid.

Slush up, serve and enjoy!

This reminds me of an ice skating rink.
Chipping away until...
...It looks this:

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

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Kitchen Sink Cookies

Here's another good cookie for you. I love the concept of this cookie because it's all about getting creative and throwing as much as you can into it. The original recipe calls for walnuts and shredded coconut but since I didn't have walnuts and Alex doesn't like shredded coconut, I omitted and substituted them with Reese Pieces, which Alex adores. The oatmeal and the Cocoa Pebbles didn't add much to the flavor but it gave the cookie a nice crunchy texture. The Reeses Pieces gave the cookies a subtle peanut butter flavor which is great because I can actually eat these cookies. For some reason, my tastebuds are against all sweets that are overwhelmingly peanut buttery.

Kitchen Sink Cookies
Adapted from Jill O'Connor's Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey
Makes 2 dozen cookies

1/2 cup (2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup Cocoa Pebbles
3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup Reeses Pieces

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and the sugars. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Beat in the vanilla. Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt and then beat into the butter mixture.

Using a large wooden spoon, stir in the cereal, oats, chips, and Reeses Pieces.

Using a spoon or cookie scoop, scoop up a Tbsp of cookie dough and place on baking sheet. Line the balls at least 2 inches apart. Flatten each ball with two wet fingers and bake until the cookies are brown and a little puffy, about 12-15 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet before removing to cooling rack.

Serve and enjoy!

Monday, September 28, 2009

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An Ode to Funfetti

Oh Funfetti. How do I love thee? I love you like no other. You were my first boxed cake and have been my favorite ever since. I refuse to buy or make other boxed cakes except for you. There's something about you that keeps me coming back for more. There's something about you that sent me into a fit of I MUST HAVE YOU NOW OR ELSE I WON'T MAKE IT TO TOMORROW that made me go to Publix and buy you. Is it your sprinkles? Or is it that you're a white cake? I've tried imitation cakes but there is no replicating or replacing Funfetti. You are hands down my favorite cake and you have never, ever disappointed me. I could eat you all by myself and I've thought about hiding you from Alex but if he finds out I'm hiding Funfetti from him, he might just smash all my eggs and put me on a forced baking leave. Thank you Funfetti. Thank you for being you and for being the best you can be despite being a boxed cake mix.
PS Sorry for the randomness of this post. My pregnancy brain has me thinking of nothing but Funfetti cake.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

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DB: Vols-au-Vent

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

I am so happy to finally be posting a DB challenge on the reveal date! I think the real challenge for me is posting on the right date, not the actual DB challenge itself. This is a great dessert to get back into the gear of things. It's beautiful, it's fancy, and it's delicious. It requires some effort because you are making pastry dough. I kept getting reminded of how difficult it is to roll out and fold up pastry dough when the butter isn't chilled enough (gooey mess anyone?). The dessert required just a little more patience than I anticipated but I got it done and afterward the difficult decision laid in what to fill the goodie with. Because I wanted to eat these for breakfast I filled them with some skillet apples and topped them with a powdered sugar glaze. They came out absolutely perfect and were worth the chilling time and rolling 6 and folding six times.

Thanks to Steph (she has a GREAT blog!) for the selection and make sure to head over to the Daring Kitchen site to see what else is going on with us DBers.

Vols-au-Vent with Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough

-food processor
-rolling pin
-pastry brush
-metal bench scraper (optional, but recommended)
-plastic wrap
-baking sheet
-parchment paper
-silicone baking mat (optional, but recommended)
-set of round cutters (optional, but recommended)
-sharp chef’s knife
-cooling rack

Prep Times:
-about 4-5 hours to prepare the puff pastry dough (much of this time is inactive, while you wait for the dough to chill between turns…it can be stretched out over an even longer period of time if that better suits your schedule)
-about 1.5 hours to shape, chill and bake the vols-au-vent after your puff pastry dough is complete

Forming and Baking the Vols-au-Vent

Yield: 1/3 of the puff pastry recipe below will yield about 8-10 1.5” vols-au-vent or 4 4” vols-au-vent

In addition to the equipment listed above, you will need:
-well-chilled puff pastry dough (recipe below)
-egg wash (1 egg or yolk beaten with a small amount of water)
-your filling of choice

Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

Using a knife or metal bench scraper, divided your chilled puff pastry dough into three equal pieces. Work with one piece of the dough, and leave the rest wrapped and chilled. (If you are looking to make more vols-au-vent than the yield stated above, you can roll and cut the remaining two pieces of dough as well…if not, then leave refrigerated for the time being or prepare it for longer-term freezer storage. See the “Tips” section below for more storage info.)

On a lightly floured surface, roll the piece of dough into a rectangle about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick. Transfer it to the baking sheet and refrigerate for about 10 minutes before proceeding with the cutting.

(This assumes you will be using round cutters, but if you do not have them, it is possible to cut square vols-au-vents using a sharp chef’s knife.) For smaller, hors d'oeuvre sized vols-au-vent, use a 1.5” round cutter to cut out 8-10 circles. For larger sized vols-au-vent, fit for a main course or dessert, use a 4” cutter to cut out about 4 circles. Make clean, sharp cuts and try not to twist your cutters back and forth or drag your knife through the dough. Half of these rounds will be for the bases, and the other half will be for the sides. (Save any scrap by stacking—not wadding up—the pieces…they can be re-rolled and used if you need extra dough. If you do need to re-roll scrap to get enough disks, be sure to use any rounds cut from it for the bases, not the ring-shaped sides.)

Using a ¾-inch cutter for small vols-au-vent, or a 2- to 2.5-inch round cutter for large, cut centers from half of the rounds to make rings. These rings will become the sides of the vols-au-vent, while the solid disks will be the bottoms. You can either save the center cut-outs to bake off as little “caps” for you vols-au-vent, or put them in the scrap pile.

Dock the solid bottom rounds with a fork (prick them lightly, making sure not to go all the way through the pastry) and lightly brush them with egg wash. Place the rings directly on top of the bottom rounds and very lightly press them to adhere. Brush the top rings lightly with egg wash, trying not to drip any down the sides (which may inhibit rise). If you are using the little “caps,” dock and egg wash them as well.

Refrigerate the assembled vols-au-vent on the lined baking sheet while you pre-heat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). (You could also cover and refrigerate them for a few hours at this point.)

Once the oven is heated, remove the sheet from the refrigerator and place a silicon baking mat (preferred because of its weight) or another sheet of parchment over top of the shells. This will help them rise evenly. Bake the shells until they have risen and begin to brown, about 10-15 minutes depending on their size. Reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF (180ºC), and remove the silicon mat or parchment sheet from the top of the vols-au-vent. If the centers have risen up inside the vols-au-vent, you can gently press them down. Continue baking (with no sheet on top) until the layers are golden, about 15-20 minutes more. (If you are baking the center “caps” they will likely be finished well ahead of the shells, so keep an eye on them and remove them from the oven when browned.)

Remove to a rack to cool. Cool to room temperature for cold fillings or to warm for hot fillings.

Fill and serve.

*For additional rise on the larger-sized vols-au-vents, you can stack one or two additional ring layers on top of each other (using egg wash to "glue"). This will give higher sides to larger vols-au-vents, but is not advisable for the smaller ones, whose bases may not be large enough to support the extra weight.

*Although they are at their best filled and eaten soon after baking, baked vols-au-vent shells can be stored airtight for a day.

*Shaped, unbaked vols-au-vent can be wrapped and frozen for up to a month (bake from frozen, egg-washing them first).

Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough

From: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: 2-1/2 pounds dough

2-1/2 cups (12.2 oz/ 354 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups (5.0 oz/ 142 g) cake flour
1 tbsp. salt (you can cut this by half for a less salty dough or for sweet preparations)
1-1/4 cups (10 fl oz/ 300 ml) ice water
1 pound (16 oz/ 454 g) very cold unsalted butter
plus extra flour for dusting work surface

Mixing the Dough:

Check the capacity of your food processor before you start. If it cannot hold the full quantity of ingredients, make the dough into two batches and combine them.

Put the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse a couple of times just to mix. Add the water all at once, pulsing until the dough forms a ball on the blade. The dough will be very moist and pliable and will hold together when squeezed between your fingers. (Actually, it will feel like Play-Doh.)

Remove the dough from the machine, form it into a ball, with a small sharp knife, slash the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern. Wrap the dough in a damp towel and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the butter between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a rolling pin until it flattens into a square that's about 1" thick. Take care that the butter remains cool and firm: if it has softened or become oily, chill it before continuing.

Incorporating the Butter:

Unwrap the dough and place it on a work surface dusted with all-purpose flour (A cool piece of marble is the ideal surface for puff pastry) with your rolling pin (preferably a French rolling pin without handles), press on the dough to flatten it and then roll it into a 10" square. Keep the top and bottom of the dough well floured to prevent sticking and lift the dough and move it around frequently. Starting from the center of the square, roll out over each corner to create a thick center pad with "ears," or flaps.

Place the cold butter in the middle of the dough and fold the ears over the butter, stretching them as needed so that they overlap slightly and encase the butter completely. (If you have to stretch the dough, stretch it from all over; don't just pull the ends) you should now have a package that is 8" square.

To make great puff pastry, it is important to keep the dough cold at all times. There are specified times for chilling the dough, but if your room is warm, or you work slowly, or you find that for no particular reason the butter starts to ooze out of the pastry, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it . You can stop at any point in the process and continue at your convenience or when the dough is properly chilled.

Making the Turns:

Gently but firmly press the rolling pin against the top and bottom edges of the square (this will help keep it square). Then, keeping the work surface and the top of the dough well floured to prevent sticking, roll the dough into a rectangle that is three times as long as the square you started with, about 24" (don't worry about the width of the rectangle: if you get the 24", everything else will work itself out.) With this first roll, it is particularly important that the butter be rolled evenly along the length and width of the rectangle; check when you start rolling that the butter is moving along well, and roll a bit harder or more evenly, if necessary, to get a smooth, even dough-butter sandwich (use your arm-strength!).

With a pastry brush, brush off the excess flour from the top of the dough, and fold the rectangle up from the bottom and down from the top in thirds, like a business letter, brushing off the excess flour. You have completed one turn.

Rotate the dough so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. Repeat the rolling and folding process, rolling the dough to a length of 24" and then folding it in thirds. This is the second turn.

Chilling the Dough:

If the dough is still cool and no butter is oozing out, you can give the dough another two turns now. If the condition of the dough is iffy, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Each time you refrigerate the dough, mark the number of turns you've completed by indenting the dough with your fingertips. It is best to refrigerate the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns.

The total number of turns needed is six. If you prefer, you can give the dough just four turns now, chill it overnight, and do the last two turns the next day. Puff pastry is extremely flexible in this regard. However, no matter how you arrange your schedule, you should plan to chill the dough for at least an hour before cutting or shaping it.

Friday, September 25, 2009

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POM Update

I just mentioned price as a factor in my not consuming POM Wonderful sooner in my last post and guess what? Costco sells a 60 oz jug of the juice for $9.99. That price is phenomenal! The supermarkets around here charge nearly that much for a bottle half the size. Score!!!
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POM Wonderful Jello

The awesome people at POM Wonderful contacted me and sent me some of their POM Wonderful juice. I had seen this juice in the store but never bought it because of the price tag. I was afraid I wouldn't like the juice and that was enough to justify me not buying it. After receiving the samples, I can see why someone would go for POM Wonderful despite the price tag. You are definitely getting a quality product in this juice. If you like cranberry juice, you will LOVE POM Wonderful. This juice made my pregnant soul sing because of how good it was. It's not as tart as cranberry juice and you can taste how natural it is; it doesn't taste like it's loaded with artificial flavors or sugars. I've had other pomegranate juices and something about them tastes so fake and unsatisfying. This juice is 100% pomegranate goodness and all I can say now is, what took me so long to try this? It's a great tasting juice and you feel so healthy after drinking it.

After chugging a bottle down, I decided to make this juice a little bit unhealthy. How, you ask? I made some pomegranate jello and topped that baby with some pomegranate whipped cream. These two recipes are perfect for showcasing the flavor of the juice without taking one ounce of it's natural flavor away.

Pomegranate Jello
Source: Alton Brown
Enough for 2 servings.

1 cup POM Wonderful
1 envelopes unflavored gelatin 

1 tablespoons sugar

Place 1/4 cup of the pomegranate juice into a medium mixing bowl and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Mix together and set aside.

Place the remaining juice and the sugar into a small saucepan and place over high heat. Bring just to a boil. Remove from the heat and add to the juice and gelatin mixture, stirring to combine.

Pour liquid in mold of your choice and refrigerate until hardened, about 90 minutes.

Top with pomegranate whipped cream and enjoy!

Pomegranate Whipped Cream

1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp powdered sugar
2 Tbsp POM Wonderful

Combine heavy cream and powdered sugar in a small bowl and whip until it starts to thicken. Add the pomegranate juice and continue to whip until the cream holds peaks.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

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Ultimate Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookie

Where do you stand on the chocolate chip cookie debate? Do you like your cookies chewy or crispy? I happen to fall on the chewy side but you will never catch me turning down a chocolate chip cookie. I came across this recipe and decided to make it since it's only one of a handful of chocolate chip cookie recipes I have not tried. Alex LOVED this cookie. He was all about it and couldn't stop stuffing his face with it. I liked the cookie but wasn't crazy about it. You see Alex falls on the crispy side of the debate and these cookies are the ultimate crispy chocolate chip cookie. It's actually beautiful to watch these cookies come to room temperature because they are puffy fresh out the oven and they thin out as they cool. If you prefer crispy cookies, then this recipe is definitely for you.

Great Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source: David Lebovitz's Great Book of Chocolate

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch (1cm) pieces
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped (I omitted)

Adjust the oven rack to the top 1/3 of the oven and preheat to 300F. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.

Beat the sugars and butters together until smooth. Mix in the egg, vanilla, and baking soda. Stir together the flour and salt, then mix them into the batter. Mix in the chocolate chips and nuts.

Scoop the cookie dough into 2-tablespoon balls and place 8 balls, spaced 4 inches apart, on each of the baking sheets.

Bake for 18 minutes, or until pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

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TWD: Cottage Cheese Pufflets

Another week, another baking challenge. I meant to have this post up yesterday but after fighting with the dough I wasn't in the mood to post. Don't get me wrong, the finished product is really good, but the dough is really hard to work with. I couldn't roll the dough out with a rolling pin and putting it between sheets of wax paper didn't help because the dough either fell apart or stuck to everything. Chilling didn't help either. I eventually threw in the towel and just shaped these things by hand. I was done with them and just wanted to get them in the oven and baked. Like I said before, these pufflets were good in that they were soft and smooth and the dough had a mildly sweet flavor that went well with the tartness of the strawberry filling. I just don't like the mission and mess of making them.

Thanks to Jacque of Daisy Lane Cakes for this week's selection. I probably would have never tried this recipe had it not been for her selecting it, so thank you for making this a challenge for me! Make sure to check out her blog for the recipe and the TWD site to see how other people did this week.

I love the way the filling oozed out.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

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Marriage, Pregnancy, Boards

Have you ever tried to sum up your life into a few words? Kind of like that activity that asks you to describe yourself in three words. I took this picture recently and it occurred to me that the picture perfectly described the state of my life at this point. It's a glimpse into what's important at the moment and what consumes my thoughts. First, there's my marriage. I feel incredibly lucky to have married such a great guy and still be happy. Second, is the pregnancy. Again, I feel incredibly lucky to be pregnant and to be in this stage of not only my life, but our lives. Lastly, there are the boards. These tests seem to never end and have played such a huge role in our lives for the past 3 years. So much has ridden on Alex passing them. He's finally done with the last part of his boards but now the anticipation and wait for the results begins.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

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Baked Rigatoni with Bechamel Sauce

My friend Jen passed along this recipe and I thought I'd share it with you. This pasta is easy to make and extremely delicious. The best part is that it's made with ingredients you should already have in your kitchen and it's super amendable. The bechamel sauce takes on the flavor of the cheese so make sure to use a nice, strong cheese if you like your sauces with a little kick.

Baked Rigatoni with Bechamel Sauce
Source: Food Network (here)


Bechamel Sauce:
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup and 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 quart whole milk, at room temperature
Pinch of fresh nutmeg
Sea salt and white pepper
I cup fontina (I used parmesan instead)
1/2 Lb thinly sliced prosciutto, julienned (I omitted)

1 lb dry rigatoni
3 Tbsp butter unsalted butter, diced

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Bechamel sauce: In a 2 quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes. Always stirring, gradually add the milk and continue to whisk until the sauce is smooth and creamy. Simmer until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. This will take approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in nutmeg, 1/2 cup fontina, prosciutto, and season with salt and white pepper. Set aside.
In a large pot, bring to a boil 6 quarts of salted water. Add the rigatoni and cook for about 5 minutes. Since you will be cooking the pasta a second time in the oven, you want to make sure the inside is still hard. Drain in a colander. Return pasta to the pot and pour in bechamel sauce. Using a wooden spoon, mix well until all the pasta is coated with the sauce.
Into a greased 13 by 9-inch baking dish, pour the pasta with cream sauce. Smooth out top and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup fontina. Dot the top with diced butter and bake in oven for 25 minutes or until bubbling and the top is golden brown.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

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S'Mores Cookies aka The Best Cookies Ever

I've never had a s'mores cookie before but for some reason I was wanting them real bad. So bad that I couldn't even concentrate. So I found a recipe and made them. And then I fell in love with the cookie all over again. Cookies have always been my favorite dessert to make because everyone likes cookies and because they are perfect single servings. But this cookie renewed my love for the cookie. These cookies are both perfection and heaven. By far the best cookies I have ever made and that says a lot. These cookies are like chocolate chip cookies only a million times better. I didn't do the last step of putting bits of chocolate and marshmallows onto the cookie. Instead I threw everything into the cookie and baked away. I don't think this switch changed anything about the cookie, but if it did I am glad I did it then. The cookies were amazingly chewy and the marshmallow gave the cookie a deep brown sugar flavor. I ate 4 of the cookies after they came out of the oven. Alex and his mom said they were the best cookies they'd ever had and Alex's mom even snuck one of the cookies away and hid it for later. You absolutely must give these cookies a try.
S'Mores Cookies
Source: Jigglebuns on Tasty Kitchen (here)

2 cups All-purpose Flour
1 cup Graham Cracker Crumbs
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Salt
1 cup Butter, Softened
¾ cups Sugar
¾ cups Brown Sugar
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
2 whole Eggs
1 cup Miniature Chocolate Chips
2 cups Miniature Marshmallows
3 whole Hershey's Bars, Chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking soda, and salt. Whisk together. In a large bowl, cream butter, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each one. Slowly mix in the flour mixture, beating until smooth. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 8 minutes and remove from oven. Push 3 or 4 marshmallows and a couple of pieces of chocolate into each cookie. Return to oven and bake an additional 3-4 minutes until cookie is cooked and marshmallows are beginning to brown. Cool cookies on wire rack.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

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TWD: Apple Turnovers

The world is a beautiful place isn't it? Despite all the bad and sad, there is still a lot of love and happiness going around. I like to think of all the good things to help me get through the day and help me cope with the reality of things. A little bit of my happy mood got into the apple turnovers and every time I looked at them I smiled. I made some of the turnovers in their traditional shape and got creative with the rest. The turnovers were fantastic. Alex kept raving about them and how he liked how the dough wasn't sweet. The dough is sweet, just not sweet in a way that overpowers and takes away from the natural flavors of the apple filling. I love sour cream in desserts because it adds another level of flavor and it makes desserts more tender, if that makes any sense.

Thanks to Julie of Someone’s in the Kitchen for this week's selection. Make sure to check out her blog for the recipe and to head over to the TWD site to see what everyone else thought of the apple turnovers.

Not traditional.
Goodness on the inside.

Monday, September 14, 2009

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Will It Be Pink or Blue?

This is the big week. A few days from now we'll know the sex of what's been baking for the last 4.5 months. Will it be a girl or a boy? Will the nursery be filled with pinks or blues? We'll be happy either way but the not knowing is an overwhelming feeling. Each night I think about the little one but the direction of my thoughts depend on the sex of the baby. Will the baby wear frilly dresses or little bow ties? Will it be a daddy's girl or a momma's boy? The questions go on and on. I'll be glad to know what we're having so I can start planning and calling the baby by its name instead of always referring to it as IT. The excitement and anticipation are overpowering and I really hope the kid isn't shy during the ultrasound. It couldn't really be that cruel to make its parents wait any longer.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

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A Taste of Miami: Versailles

When I was younger I used to pass by this restaurant called Versailles. I always thought it was such a beautiful restaurant; the outside looks like an Italian villa. I would ask my mom if we could go eat there and she always said no. Her reasoning? The restaurant was too nice and my sister and I didn't know how to behave in a nice restaurant. As a result, I always thought Versailles was a fancy restaurant and only worthy enough of going to when I learned some proper table side manners. Imagine my surprise when I went there recently and it looked like a cafeteria on the inside. I was laughing hysterically and Alex thought I lost my mind. My mom wouldn't take me to this!? The dining area doesn't match the outside. Sure, there are signs of opulence like the crystal chandeliers and the glass walls, but the dining area is lined with tables and green chairs that make you feel like you are back in your high school's cafeteria. What was my mom thinking??? Were we that bratty of kids that she honestly thought she couldn't take us there? I felt duped!

Versailles is your traditional Cuban restaurant. A Miami establishment that has lined 8th Street for years and years. Their menu is loaded with Cuban goodies. Beware though...the menus are in Spanish. Or at least the menus we got were in Spanish. Since this was a late night meal, we took it easy. We munched on the toasted Cuban bread, which is always my favorite part of dining at Cuban restaurants because the bread is soaked in some kind of garlic butter.

We both ordered a vanilla shake. My favorite shakes on the planet are at Cuban restaurants. The shakes are creamy, silky, and not difficult to drink. I absolutely hate shakes that require you to squeeze out your brain as you try to suck up the sweets. What I love the most is that you don't feel full from these shakes.

We shared an appetizer platter that included chicken and spinach croquetas, empanadas, fried yuca, and fried plantains served with a mojo sauce. The croquetas were just as you'd expect them to be, a crisp breading layer on the outside and a ground, mashed up filling on the inside. The empanadas were my favorite. The outside layer is pastry dough and the inside was ground up meat. I'm usually not a fan of yuca (in Cuban food, it is used almost as much as potatoes) because I think it's too tough, but I actually liked these. I think frying them softened them up a bit. The fried plantains were great and tasted even better with the mojo sauce. Virtually everything on this dish could have been dipped in the mojo suace because the sauce was mild tasting with a hint of citrus. I just realized that everything on this platter is fried. Oops. Maybe we didn't take it that easy ;-)

Versailles is located at 3555 SW 8th Street and is extremely affordable.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

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So Proud of Myself!

I am beaming right now. I did something and I am extremely proud of myself. When we lived in Boston we purchased a dresser. When we found out we were moving to Miami, this dresser became a sore spot. Alex wanted to sell all our furniture and leave Boston with nothing but our clothes. I, on the other hand, wanted to leave Boston with our furniture. I managed to convince him and the dresser was brought down to Miami. As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I became fixated on the dresser. I decided it would go in the nursery. But before that, it needed a face lift. My plan is to have all the furniture in the nursery white and the dresser was not white. I looked up how to refinish the dresser and, because it seemed easy enough, I did it myself. I spent the day sanding, priming, and painting. The end product is gorgeous and exactly what I wanted for the room. Every time I look at the dresser I can't believe I was able to revive and remodel it.

The best before picture I could find.
Sanded down.

All painted and done! I love it! Now I just need to find some great looking knobs.

Friday, September 11, 2009

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Moving Trip, Part 3: Savannah Highlight

The main reason I pushed for a stop in Savannah on our trip down was because I really wanted to go to Lady & Sons. We went to the restaurant before they opened and stood in line with about 30 other people hoping to get a reservation time that worked with out timeline. Luckily enough it did and we were set to have lunch at 12:30pm.

We walked around Savannah and tried to get our stomachs hungry enough for the buffet. This is me before we ate. Can you see the naive look on my face?? Yes it's partly happiness that we were eating at Paula Deen's restaurant but it's also the look of overconfidence. I thought I'd be making several trips to the buffet. Boy, was I wrong.
They start you off by bringing you two slices of starch. One of them was a corn pancake and the other I think was a cheddar bread. Both were extremely good but you could feel the grease swimming around inside you. I liked the corn pancake the best because you could really taste the corn. Out of curiosity, I wanted to see how many times I had to dab a piece of the corn pancake to get all the oil out. I had to dab it 11 times to get all the gunk out of it. Can you believe that? No wonder there is a warning on the menu that says they aren't afraid to use peanut oil.
Thank goodness we had some lemonade to wash all the grease down. Despite the sweetness of the lemonade, this helped us feel just a little bit healthier. Until......We made the trip to the buffet. As I said earlier, the plan was to make multiple trips to the buffet. There were a dozen southern dishes in the buffet, but we both stuck to basics and got mashed potatoes with gravy, mac & cheese, fried chicken, and baked chicken. I wasn't a fan of the mac & cheese because it didn't have enough flavor in it and it seemed kind of pasty. I blame that on it being a buffet food item. The mashed potatoes and gravy were classic and just right. The real winner was the fried chicken. OMG the flavor was amazing. The chicken was incredibly juicy and tender and the complete opposite of bland. The baked chicken was just as good, but the crunch of the fried chicken really was the star of the show. After this serving I was done. I couldn't even think about standing up. I felt like I swallowed a brick and was hoping someone would offer me a wheelchair or something so that I didn't have to walk anymore.
Paula Deen obviously doesn't realize how filling her food is and included dessert in the buffet. The dessert sizes were extremely appropriate. You could knock these babies out with 4 bites. Unfortunately, because I was so full I was only able to take half a bite of my butter cake. I took the rest to go. The cake matched it's name. It was very rich and buttery and had this been any other day I would have probably loved it, but since I was so full the thought of eating it repulsed me. Alex toughed it out. He actually ate all of his dessert. He ordered the banana pudding and said it was delicious. The bananas were ripe and the pudding had the perfect flavor combination of cream and banana.
After lunch, we walked around the city some more. After being defeated by the buffet we hoped we wouldn't be defeated to the point where we'd never eat again. The food was very, very, very good but it was extremely heavy. This meal could easily be the only meal you eat in a day. I'm sure the breads alone had enough calories for the day.