Sunday, May 30, 2010

What's for dinner ?

I just realized that its been at least two weeks since I last posted our weekly menu. Shame on me ! No excuses really only that time has not been my friend recently. Today is Mothers Day in France and a perfect opportunity to say thanks to all Mom's. No doubt the best job in the world with rewards that exceed any monetary value. A special thought goes out to my mother in law today, no doubt a very hard day for her.

So, how am I spending my day?  Well after being spoiled by my hubby and kids this morning we had a great brunch and I'm baking cookies for some of the kids in our condo building. Princess dresses for the girls and ice cream cones for Alex (his choice). Dinner will be simple tonight and serving with an exceptional bottle of wine (future post). 

Saturday: We were at my in-laws for dinner 
Sunday: Grilled Asian Steak with Sweet Slaw (I've been eying this recipe for a few years now ever since it appeared in the June 2008 Bon Appétit magazine)
Monday: Grilled snapper with cilantro rice
Tuesday: Tuna Sandwhiches (yes this has become a ritual - this is what happens when mom works late on a Tuesday night)
Wednesday: Lemon Fettuccine with Broccoli and Pancetta- again from the June 2008 Bon Appétit Magazine
Thursday: Grilled Chicken with Haricot Verts
Friday: My son's new favorite dish - Tacos

Bon Appétit !

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The football theme continues with...Cookies

As part of the 'big package' that I sold to my son, I mentioned that we could do football (soccer) t-shirts. He's very much interested in the French Ligue 1 football championships and knows all the teams and their t-shirts. Needless to say this was an easy sell as it combined his two favorite things for the moment, football and cookies.

Being the perfectionist that I am :) I started a few days early because I of course as any other mother wanted things to be flawless. Dorie Greenspan's Sugar Cookies were made and the frosting prepared for them however Alex on accident knocked over the box that was holding over 4dozen cookies, he was heartbroken when he realized so back to square one :) His party was on Saturday so I finished baking a new set of cookies the  Friday afternoon and my hubby and I stayed up until 2am decorating the cookies.

T-Shirt Cookies
T-Shirt Cookies

The cookies went into the party bags that we gave out to the kids, I'm not a fan of the sugary candy that they put into the bags and instead wanted to share something that was personalized and homemade.

Goody Bags with T-Shirt and Number 4 cookies
Cookie Goody Bags

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's - Baking From My Home to Yours

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Makes about 50 cookies (depending on diameter)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons (10 tablespoons; 5 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Sugar or cinnamon-sugar, for dusting (optional)

Whisk the flour, salt and baking powder together and keep close by.

Working in a mixer with the paddle attachment, if you have one, beat the butter at medium speed for a minute or so, until it is smooth. Still beating, add the sugar and continue to beat for about 2 minutes, until the butter is light and pale. Add the egg and the yolk and beat another minute or two. Reduce the mixer speed to low and steadily add the flour mixture, mixing only until it has been incorporated. In fact, because this dough is best when worked least, you might want to stop the mixer before all the flour is thoroughly blended into the dough and finish the job with a rubber spatula. When mixed, the dough will be soft, creamy and appealingly malleable.

Turn the dough out onto a counter and divide it in half. If you want to make roll-out cookies, shape each half into a disk and wrap in plastic. If you want to make slice-and-bake cookies, shape each half into a chubby sausage (the diameter of the sausage is up to you - I usually like cookies that are about 2 inches or more across) and wrap in plastic. Whether you're going to roll or slice the dough, the packets must be chilled for at least 2 hours. (Well wrapped, the dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.)

Getting ready to bake the cookies: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Have two lined baking sheets (page 000) at the ready. For these, I prefer to bake a single sheet at a time. You can fill both sheets and keep one sheet covered in the refrigerator while you bake the other.

If you are making slice-and-bake cookies, use a ruler to mark off 1/4-inch intervals on each roll of dough. With a sharp thin-bladed knife, slice the dough into rounds and place the rounds on one of the baking sheets, leaving about 1 1/2 inches of space between each cookie.

If you are making roll-out cookies, work with one packet of dough at a time and roll the dough between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper to a thickness of 1/4 inch, lifting the plastic or paper and turning the dough over often so that it rolls evenly. Lift off the top sheet of plastic or paper and cut the cookies - I like a 2-inch round cookie cutter for these. Pull away the excess dough, saving the scraps for re-rolling, and carefully lift the rounds onto the baking sheets, leaving about 1 1/2 inches of space between each cookie. (This is a soft dough and you might have trouble peeling away the excess or lifting the cut outs. If so, cover the dough, chill it for about 15 minutes and try again.) After you've rolled and cut the second packet of dough, you can form the scraps into a disk, chill, roll, cut and bake them.

Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, for 9 to 11 minutes, rotating the sheet at the mid-point. The cookies should feel firm, but they should not color much if at all. Remove the pan from the oven and dust the cookies with sugar or cinnamon-sugar, if you'd like. Let them rest 1 minute before carefully lifting them onto a rack to cool to room temperature.

Storing: The cookies will keep at room temperature in a tin for up to 1 week. Wrapped well, they can be frozen for up to 2 months.

Royal Icing by Brown Eyed Baker

4 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons meringue powder
6 tablespoons water
 ***I usually add 1/2 tsp of lemon juice to the icing as I find that the Meringue powder slightly changes the taste***

Mix all ingredients on low speed for approx 10 minutes. Add more water if depending on the consistency that you are looking for.
A great step by step tutorial can be found here: Brown Eyed Baker's Tutorial for Shaped Cookies

Birthday Cake and the Perfectionist Mom

Heavy title I know, but my son recently celebrated his 4th birthday with his first real party where he invited his friends. His original theme was Toy Story but the new Wilton pan was not coming out in time for his big day and because he's such a big football (soccer) fan I decided to sell him on the Football theme - football field for the cake, t-shirt cookies etc.

Birthday Football Cake
Football (Soccer) Birthday Cake

The cake base was simple, two rectangular cakes using the recipe Perfect All American Chocolate Butter Cake Recipe from the Cake Bible -  Rose Levy Beranbaum   . I have to admit that this particular chocolate cake has become THE recipe for chocolate cakes around here. Its very light with a rich chocolate taste that literally melts in your mouth.The cake itself stays moist for a week after baking and the recipe itself is very easy to assemble.

For the filling and frosting I decided to try a Swiss Meringue butter cream for the frosting as it is not as sweet as a traditional butter cream  and for frosting it holds peaks and shapes beautifully.The recipe came from Martha Stewart and it was everything it said it would be and more. The one 'hic' that I had with this was that it did not (at least with me) take the gel coloring very well and even though I added a fair amount of green it remained a light green as opposed to the dark grass green that I was looking for. Perfectionist mom was slightly disappointed (Ok a lot if you ask my hubby) even when my son was screaming look it a football field how cool :). I used the same butter cream to fill the layers and honestly apart from the color hitch that I had I was blown over by this frosting.

Last cake related hitch of the day ? I had ordered two sets of goal posts and candles for the cake, only one came in the delivery so the cake looks slightly unbalanced.

Perfectionist mom (which should be the title of this blog) was a little deflated but after remembering that cakes like this are not the norm in France I knew that I would still "look good" , the kids and parents were all pleased with the cake and most importantly of all - Alex was thrilled with his cake which was the aim :)
Perfect All American Chocolate Butter Cake by Rose Levy Beranbaum
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Serves 12
1/2cup + 3 tablespoons or 63 grams - 
Unsweetened cocoa (dutch processed)  *** I use Valhorna cocoa
1 cup or 236 grams - Boiling water
3 large eggs or 150grams (weighed without shell)
2 1/4tsp or 9 grams of vanilla
2 1/4 cups + 2 tablespoons or 235 grams of sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups or 300 grams sugar
1 tablespoon or 15 grams baking powder
3/4 tsp salt or 5 grams
1 cup or 227 grams unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350F or 180 C

In a medium bowl whisk together the cocoa and boiling water until smooth. Cool to room temperature.
In another bowl lightly combine the eggs, 1/4 of the cocoa mixture, and vanilla.
In a large mixing bowl combine the remaining dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 30seconds to blend.
Add the butter and remaining cocoa mixture. Mix on low speed until dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed (high speed if you
are using a hand held mixture) and beat for 1 1/2minutes to aerate and develop the cake structure. Scrape down the sides.
Gradually add the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating for 20seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the surface with a spatula. The pans will be about 1/2 full. Bake 25 to 35 minutes or until a tester inserted near the center comes out
clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center.

Let the cakes cook in the pans on the racks for 10minutes. Loosen the sides with a small metal spatula and invert onto  greased wire racks. To prevent splitting, reinvert so that the tops are up
and cool completely.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream adapted from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes
Makes 5 cups


5 large egg whites
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
4 sticks of butter or 453 grams unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


1. Combine egg whites, sugar, and salt in the heatproof bowl of a standing mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly by hand
until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved (the mixture should feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingertips)

2. Attach a bowl to the mixture fitted with the whisk attachment. Starting on low and gradually increasing to medium-high speed (if using a hand held mixer beat on
high speed, whisk until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Continue mixing until the mixture is fluffy and glossy, and completely cool (test by touching the bottom
of the bowl - about 10 minutes)

3.With mixture on medium- low speed (medium high if using hand held), add the butter a few tablespoons at a time, mixing  well after each addition. Once all butter
has been added, whisk in vanilla. Switch to a paddle attachment (a hand held mixer works fine as well) and continue beating on low speed until all air bubbles are eliminated, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl with a flexible spatula, and continue beating until the frosting is completely smooth. Keep buttercream at room temperature if using the same day, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat with paddle attachment on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes.

4. (Optional) To tint buttercream, reserve some for toning down the color, if necessary. Add the gel-paste food color, a drop at a time. Blend after each addition until desired shade is achieved.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Stacked Red Chili Enchiladas

A little late in posting in general on the blog but we had a loss in our family that had me out for a while. This posts comes via The Daring Cooks Challenge, the challenge for May was to make Stacked Green Chili Enchiladas, however finding green chili's in Paris was a challenge in itself !
Red Chili Stacked Enchiladas
Stacked Red Chili Enchiladas

Needless to say after a pleasant discovery of the three sites dedicated to Mexican cooking I was able to find most of the ingredients. The one ingredient that I could not find was the green chili so I had to substitute Ancho chili's in its place, in its fresh form its called a Poblano Chili.

We love Mexican , Tex/Mex food here so even the hubby was excited to hear what this month's challenge was. We took the opportunity to invite our next door neighbors, the husband is French and his wife is an American originally from Houston, Texas. Who says, enchiladas, also says Salsa, Guacamole and Margaritas ! what dinner  can go wrong with a start like that.

The red chili sauce came from Homesick Texan's site for Stacked Enchiladas and it was perfect (if I do say so myself) the reviews were good and I've been asked to keep the recipe for a next time. I generally like things spicy and could have added some more peppers but as we had guests I decided to keep things a little more low key. It was also my first time having them stacked and maybe its just a habit but I prefer them rolled though they did look quite impressive on the plate.

The next time I make this dish I think I'll make the corn tortillas myself, this was the original plan but the site that I ordered from  was out of Masa Harina so look out for another post on this !