Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cake Baking Class from Not Without Salt

I've never been much of a cake baker and really haven't made many cakes from scratch. If I bake a cake it's usually from a box of Betty Crocker so thought this might be a good class to encourage me to walk away from the box and bake my own cakes. The class definitely opened my eyes to cake baking and proved that it's not really that hard to make a bake from scratch so I've said goodbye to cake mixes in a box.

The class was taught by Ashely Rodriguez of Not Without Salt and hosted by Julie Hubert in her wonderful kitchen. It was the perfect place to hold a class of 12 or so people.

We watched Ashley bake several different cakes over a couple of hours and got to try each of them. We were all stuffed by the end of the night.

First, she showed us a trick on how to stuff a cupcake and how to top it with pretty frosting. We even got to frost our own cupcakes with the butter cream frosting she made during the class. I was surprised how easy it was. Next she made a zucchini whoopie pie which I don't believe I've ever had before, with or without zucchini. There was enough left over for us to take a few home with us. While the whoopie pies were baking she assembled a two layer cake with strawberries between the two layers and frosted the cake like a pro. Last but not least was the molten chocolate cake, one of my fav desserts. Unfortunately I was so stuffed from all the other desserts that I didn't have room to finish it all but it was soo good.

Recipes were provided at the beginning of the class so we could follow along and make notes. Unfortunately I forgot my recipes there. :(

It was a fun class though and everything turned out well. There were just the right number of people so it wasn't too crowded and it was very well organized. I was really surprised and impressed she was able to get so many cakes done in that amount of time.

Ashley Whisking
Shooting the Whisk
Cupcake Frosting Cupcake
Strawberries and Cake
Molten Chocolate Cake


A few more pics can be found in my set on Flickr.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Braised Fennel Bulb & Chicken Stock

I usually do my cookbook project on the weekend but I won't be able to this week so I decided to do an easy one last night. The recipes I've made so far from the Herbfarm Cookbook have taken several hours to make. Luckily I found this simple recipe in the Vegetables section. I also noticed a lot of yummy looking potato recipes in this section so I might have to do one of those too.

I had already had a fennel bulb that I bought for the soufflé sauce I made earlier. I never used fennel before and didn't realize you could eat the bulb too so was happy to find this recipe to give me something to do with it. It also gave me a chance to use some of the chicken stock I made several weeks ago and never blogged about.

I loosely followed the recipe for chicken stock in the Herbfarm cookbook. I did use a few herbs and vegetables that weren't in the recipe that I had on hand and also left out a few that were in the recipe since I didn't have them. I had bought a roasted chicken some time ago and figured I'd save the bones to make some chicken stock. I didn't want to make it right away so I put the bones in a zip lock bag and froze them until I was ready. I tied the herbs with a string to keep them all together to make it easier to strain later. I just used whatever herbs I could find in my garden and in the fridge that I had leftover from other recipes. I used thyme, rosemary, bay, and parsley stems for herbs and carrots, parsnip, onion, and celery for veggies. It was very easy and so much better than the store bought stuff. I hadn't used any of it until I made this recipe but put it all in the freezer to use when needed.

So, for the fennel bulbs I sliced the bulbs, browned em in butter, added some water, stock and pernod (an anise flavored liquor) and let it reduce down to nothing and that's it. If I ever get fennel again will definitely use this recipe again.

Veggies Chicken Stock Stewing
Chicken Stock
Fennel Bulb
Browning Fennel Bulbs
Braised Fennel Bulb

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tarragon and Chive Ravioli

A recipe from the Pasta and Risotto section of the HerbFarm Cookbook. This was my second and more successful attempt at making home made pasta. If you haven't tried making pasta dough in a food processor, it's the way to go! So easy and less messy. The dough came out perfectly this time. The trick is using rice flour to coat the pasta because it doesn't get absorbed into the dough as much as regular flour. We rolled out 4 strips going down to the 2nd to last number so the pasta was paper thin. We forgot to put rice flour on one of the strips and you could definitely tell the difference. That one was a little more difficult to go through the rollers of the pasta maker.

We filled the ravioli with ricotta and herbs. I don't have a pasta crimper so we used a fork to seal the edges which worked just fine. I'm always amazed at how quickly pasta cooks. Just a couple of minutes and they were done.

The sauce was simply butter with some herbs in it. We however decided to make a modification to it. The recipe didn't say to chop the herbs and the flat leaf parsley I had was rather large, I probably should have chopped it some but followed the directions and added whole leaves to the melted butter. It just didn't seem right so we decided to try blending the herbs in the butter which made a thick paste so we added some cream but that didn't seem to thin it out much so we added milk. Eventually we got something to the consistency that looked right. Unfortunately the sauce didn't taste as good as we had hoped.

Other than the sauce failure it turned out pretty well. However the filling could have used a bit more salt. I think I'll be using a food processor anytime I make a pasta dough from now on.

Ravioli Filling
Pasta Dough
Strips of Pasta Making Ravioli
Uncooked Ravioli
Tarragon and Chive Ravioli

Monday, June 21, 2010

Kushibar

After going to the last wine tasting at Seattle Cellars in Belltown, Mark and I had planned to get a bite to eat at Pinxto but were running short on time so decided to stop at Kushibar to grab a quick bite. I thought it looked like a restaurant you might find in a foreign country. I later found it was described as Japanese street food. It looked like a place that might have some decent quick food. There weren't a whole lot of customers but the food took a little longer than we had anticipated.

We were served some water and a bowl of complementary popcorn. I'm not sure what it was seasoned with but the seasonings were very tasty. However, the seasoning didn't coat the popcorn very evenly. Some of it was way over-seasoned making it way too salty and hard to eat while other parts perfectly seasoned. Had it all been seasoned well it may be the best popcorn I've ever had.

We picked a couple of items off of the specials or possibly a happy hour menu. We went with two chicken skewers for $2 each. They were cooked well and were good and spicy. We also got a plate of shrimp which I believe were $6 and also had a good amount of seasoning. I think both dishes may have been better with slightly less seasonings. We had to eat fast so I could get to my cake baking class in time. We got the bill fairly quickly since they weren't too busy and it was easy to get their attention since we sat at the bar.

I thought it was a fairly decent meal for the price but could have been better had they gone a little easier on the seasonings.

Shrimp Chicken Skewers
Kushibar Japanese Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Kathy Casey Food Studios

Last night a spectacular Seattle Foodie event organized by Keren Brown was going on in Ballard at Kathy Casey's Food Studio. The event was to highlight Kathy's cookbook, Sips & Apps and Lorna Yee's new cookbook, The Newlywed Kitchen. I had The Newlywed Kitchen on my Amazon Wishlist and my Birthday is coming up. I happened to find it sitting on my doorstep the day before the event. What good timing. I might have caved in and bought it last night if I didn't get it as a birthday present from a friend. I did however pick up a copy of Sips & Apps signed by Kathy before leaving.

There were loads of yummy bites to eat including cheeses, preserves and chutneys, appetizers from Sips & Apps and some sweets from The Newlywed Kitchen. I tried several of the appetizers and my favorite was probably the lamb sliders. The homemade rosemary buns were perfectly soft with a slightly crisp crust. Under the lamb patties were pickled red onions. I also really enjoyed the peppadew peppers stuffed with cream cheese and almonds that were plated around the bar. The only sweet I tried was Lorna's Fudge brownies and only because I had heard people talking about how good they were. I probably wouldn't have tried them otherwise. I'm not a big fudge fan, mainly because fudge is normally so rich and sweet and one bite is enough. These brownies, though they are fudgy, they aren't sweet like most fudges and brownies I've had. The dark chocolate just melted in my mouth. I had to stop myself from eating more than one.

Three different cocktails were being highlighted at the event. I was able to try all 3 without passing out.

The Tuscan Rosemary Drop was the first cocktail. It is a version of a lemon drop martini and was topped off with a honey lemon flavored foam. Kathy did a little presentation on how to make them. She uses homemade limoncello only aged for a few days. I always thought it took a month or more to make but she proved it can be done in less time and it was good. She also suggested starting off with a citrus vodka. Seems like a good idea, especially if you don't plan on aging it for very long.

The Charleston 75 was my favorite. It's a Southern take on the French 75. Muddled peaches and red vermouth are a few of the ingredients that make it different. It also contains bourbon and she used Maker's Mark, one of my favs, during the demonstration. I think the peaches are what makes this cocktail stand out.

The Tropical Tiki Time Sangria was the final cocktail I tried. It was the first time I've had a Sangria that wasn't red. I didn't see a demo of this drink so not sure what all was in it but there was lots of tasty fruit in it, including a garnish of star fruit.

We also got to meet Corky Luster from Ballard Bee Company. Kathy has a bee hive in back of her studio and Corky was there to show it to us and answer all our questions. I usually get a little freaked out by bees/hornets/yellow jackets/etc. but I know these guys are just pollen hungry and aren't likely to sting people so I got pretty close. Learned some interesting facts about bees: It takes 36 bees their entire life to make 1 Tbsp of honey. Bees travel several miles looking for pollen and always return to the same hive. There are bee guards that fight off any bees that try to enter the hive that aren't supposed to be there. Makes me wonder how they know which ones belong there and which ones don't. There are many thousands of bees in the hive. It was interesting to watch the bees coming in and out of the hive. Corky pulled out some of the trays of honeycomb and showed us where some had baby bees growing. They weren't quite as far along as the ones in the hive we knocked down off my roof. Kind of makes me want to put a hive in my backyard. There's always some bees around my lavender. I wonder how far they traveled for it.

Kathy and Lorna took a few minutes during the night to talk a little bit about their books and answer some questions from the other foodies. We found out that Lorna's favorite recipe from her cookbook is the red velvet cake. She said it was so easy to make and described it as a dump cake, where you simply dump all the ingredients into a bowl, mix, and bake. I love red velvet cake so that is one I will have to try. Kathy has been in her beautiful studio on Ballard Ave for around 10 years, before it was such a cool location. She also talked about how she met her husband on a blind date and made him swoon with a wonderful seafood dish.

Kathy Casey and Lorna Yee Lorna Yee
Kathy Casey Mixing Drinks
Corky Luster Ballard Bee Guy
Lamb Slider
Apps and Cheese
Stuffed Peppadew Peppers
Lorna Yee's Brownies
Bacon Blue Cheese & Pecan Cocktail Cookies Tuscan Rosemary Drop with Honey Lemon Foam
Charleston 75
Tropical Tiki Time Sangria

A few more photos from the event can be found on my Flickr Set.

Individual Crab and Lemon Thyme Soufflés with Chervil Sauce

This week's recipe was taken from the Little Bites, First Courses, and Egg Dishes section of The HerbFarm Cookbook. This was my first attempt at making a Soufflé. It was a lot more work that I had anticipated. I kind of wish there were prep/cooking times listed for each recipe to help in preparing for these recipes.

I only had 4 oz ramekins and the recipe called for 6 6 oz ramekins. I decided to go with 4 10 oz Rachel Ray Ramekins that I bought last Wed with my my Amazon Prime account and got them on Friday, just in time to make the Soufflés. I'm not sure they puffed up as much as they should have during baking. I even cooked them longer than the recipe called for. They still tasted great though.

We ate two of them for lunch on Saturday and stuck the other two in the fridge to eat for breakfast the next day. They definitely deflated quite a bit in the fridge. I just put them back in the oven to heat them up though they didn't re-inflate but they tasted just as good as the day before.

The chervil sauce was from the sauces and other basic recipes section of the cookbook and is a blended herb and butter sauce. The recipe has many suggestions of different herbs you can try with this sauce but the soufflé recipe specifically requested chervil sauce. Unfortunately fresh chervil is not easy to find. It appears if you want to use it you have to grow it yourself, know someone who is growing it, or you might get lucky and find some at a farmer's market. I had never used or even heard of it before seeing it in this recipe. Kelly Cline described what it tasted like and made suggestions on different herbs to try and mimic the taste of chervil. I took her suggestion and combined tarragon, flat leaf parsley, and fennel. The sauce turned out tasty but am not sure if it really tasted like chervil or not since I had never had it before. I did think it went well with the soufflés.

Bread Crumb Coated Ramekins
Soufflé Base
Egg Whites
Bubbling Butter Sauce Fresh Herbs
Soufflés Baked
Individual Crab and Lemon Thyme Soufflés with Chervil Sauce

Sunday, June 13, 2010

10 Year Anniversary Lunch at The Stone House

This April was my 10th year as an employee for ATT aka ATT Wireless aka Cingular. Despite all the company's name changes and management changes I've been able to stick with the company and even the same team throughout these 10 years. Employees get to celebrate their 10 year anniversary's by getting taken out to lunch by their boss with a $100 cap. Unfortunately my boss is in Atlanta and was unable to take me to lunch so instead, I took my team of 4 out to lunch to celebrate.

I did some Googling and Yelping and discovered a nearby restaurant that I hadn't heard of before. It got some good reviews, the menu looked great, and the prices were fairly high for lunch but still fell within the $100 budget we had.

For a change, everyone got something different and everyone seemed to enjoy what they got. I went with the King Salmon and Corn Chowder to start. It had good taste but for a chowder, I thought it was too runny. I also got the Truffle Tremor Mac & Cheese with dungeness crab and roasted corn. It too was a little runny for mac & cheese, but was still tasty and didn't have too much cheese like some other mac & cheeses I've had.

I'd love to go back again sometime to try out some of their other dishes.

The Stone House Entrance Stone House Sign
Truffle Tremor Mac and Cheese with Dungeness Crab and Roasted Corn King Salmon and Corn Chowder
The Stone House on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 07, 2010

Balsamic Potato Salad

This was the recipe I chose from the salad category of The Herbfarm Cookbook for the 2nd week of my cookbook project. I admit I'm not a huge fan of balsamic vinegar. When I bought the ingredients for the recipe I forgot I already had some balsamic vinegar so now I've got two nearly full bottles of balsamic vinegar. Does anyone need a bottle? I must admit though that this was the best potato salad I've ever made. The recipe made a fair amount. After 3 days it's all gone, ate the last of it at lunch today. I normally make the mayo/mustard type of potato salad, but this one was much different and full of flavor and herby goodness. At the end of the recipe, there were a couple of different options for herbs to use. This is one recipe I will definitely make again to try out some of these other variations. There was one alternative using dill that I must try.

I decided to use fingerling potatoes rather than red potatoes just because I've never used them before. They were a sinch to cut up and they cooked very well too. I used some of the mint from my herb garden that I had planted last year. I've discovered there's a lot more herbs I'd love to add to my herb garden like oregano, parsley, dill, and tarragon.

You'll have to get the book to get the recipe, but here are a few of the things that went into it.
3 Bell Peppers Head of Garlic
Red Onion
Garden Mint
Fingerling Potatoes
Bowl of Balsamic Potato Salad