Tag Archives: Daughter of Invention

Cardamom Browned Butter (I’m Really Proud of This One!!!)

January 2013

I usually don’t boast when sharing recipes, but when it comes to this butter experiment, I feel entitled to brag!

Cardamom Browned Butter

I searched a few combinations of “browned butter” and “honey” and “cardamom,” and the most immediate results were recipes for cookies, streusels, cakes, etc, but what I wanted was that flavor combination in a butter. Just butter. I left Google momentarily, and I experimented. Once you try this flavor packed butter, you will understand why I feel entitled to boast about this experiment! After making enough for yourself, this simple, flavorful butter would make a great gift in a little jam jar for someone who deserves a little jam jar of heaven.

Browned Butter with Honey & Cardamom

Ingredients

1 stick organic, unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 Tablespoon clover honey

Directions

Heat a skillet or saucepan on medium heat. Add the sliced butter, whisking frequently.

Continue to cook the butter.

Once melted, the butter will foam up a bit, then subside. Watch carefully as lightly browned specks begin to form at the bottom of the pan.

Remove from heat and place on a cool surface to help stop the butter from cooking further (and to prevent from burning).

Pour the browned butter into a small container.

Add the honey and cardamom and stir to combine.

Set the butter aside to cool and set.

Voila!

Embracing Failure: An Apple Crisp Of Sorts

October 2012

Want to talk about failure?

No? You’re probably not alone. Most people don’t want to talk about failure. I happen to be a person who fears failure quite a bit, maybe even runs away from it, maybe even runs quite fast and quite far away from it. BUT the beauty of this big, wide world is that it is FULL of people and examples and conversations that have taught me failure isn’t the end. The beauty of this big, wide world is we are capable of changing how we fit in it. I am learning failure is just the brink of decision making; it teeters between settling and determining, between defeat and discipline.

A failed body image can transform into a culinary embrace. A failed marriage can become a display of strength and a fresh start. A failed yoga class…is the one I don’t attend for fear of “failing.” A failed business might be the very best example of how to start the next. A failed apple crisp can still be a crisp…of sorts!

I have a book, whose title I shall not mention, filled with pie, tart, crisp and crumble recipes. Being that it was fall, I thought it would be lovely to bring an apple crisp to the dinner party I was supposed to attend that night. The problem with the recipe I was referencing was the inclusion of the volume of the topping, as a whole, right above the total for the light brown sugar. Was I supposed to add all of those measurements together? They were in the same block of the ingredient chart, so I assumed yes. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. I stared at a bowl containing an obvious abundance of brown sugar already mixed with the other ingredients.

Not to panic. An abundance of brown sugar isn’t the end of the world, but it could very well mean a trip to the dentist, so I developed a new plan. I compensated with butter! I added lots more butter, thinking I could turn the crumble into a crust, but when I pre-baked the “crust,” it began to melt and slip away from the pie plate. FAIL FAIL FAIL!

I had a mess of apples, ooey, gooey, spiced apples sweetened with the reduction of their juices. I had a melted crust. Slightly discouraged, I decided the slip ‘n slide crust could be an ugly but delicious base. I poured the apples atop the “crust” and returned the mishap to the oven, where it all began to bubble over the pie plate. I stared and stared at it, thinking of all the wasted ingredients, all the meaningless photos, and the failed attempts at winging it. The waste factor kept nagging and nagging, so I tried a scoop….not too bad. I tried another spoonful…not bad at all!

I stirred the juicy, apple mess into a container to take to the dinner party. I whipped cream into a Kraken Rum whipped cream, which incidentally had the very best consistency I have ever whipped to date! I offered a bit of an excuse when I presented the warm, apple mess to the table, and you know what happened to my failed crisp? It disappeared!

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
-Thomas A. Edison

An Ode To A Cabin In Autumn: A Batter Resplatter

September 2012

Ambitious retreat.

When I think of the special cabin in the woods, I think of eating, conversing, wandering, sitting, talking, eating, sitting, warming, reading…. With the slower pace and simpler agenda, I consider each meal an opportunity for a brand new creative endeavor. I let the seasons inspire and try the recipes I’ve stored patiently in my arsenal. The meals link other aspects of my cabin memories, so heating leftovers doesn’t seem to do justice to the special cabin (instead we pack the leftovers for our return dinner). I tend to be overly ambitious in my menu planning, but sometimes a small measure can twist a leftover into the new experience I seek to create.

As my special one waffled his way through the large bowl of batter for our first brunch, his hunger and patience proved to be inversely proportional. Since we had plenty of waffles to eat, I saved the batter for a resplatter, in the form of pancakes, the following morn. Granted, this does not make me the Picasso of pancakes or a kitchen trailblazer by any means, but let this remind and with any hope, slightly inspire. With the addition of roasted kuri squash and a new whipping of cream, we had a new meal with half the steps and risked waste less.

“Nothing helps scenery like ham and eggs.”
-Mark Twain

Much like this avocado egg or these harvest nests, these ham cups are a blank canvas awaiting your cravings and creativity. In my case, I used leftover root vegetables from the previous night’s dinner, with a sprinkling of salty cheese, as the secret surprise ingredients beneath the egg top. Mushrooms and leeks would be delicious, par example.

Ham Cups

Ingredients

Organic Maple Ham
Local/Free-range eggs
Salt & Pepper, to taste
Veggies of choice
Cheese of choice

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Line each muffin cup with a slice of ham, letting it ruffle up the sides.

Crack an egg into each, sprinkle with a bit of cheese and season with salt and pepper.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the white is set but the yolk is still runny. Serve immediately, on their own on a plate or set in small dishes for extra support.

Who wants a pancake,
Sweet and piping hot?
Good little Grace looks up and says,
“I’ll take the one on top.”
Who else wants a pancake,
Fresh off the griddle?
Terrible Theresa smiles and says,
“I’ll take the one in the middle.”

-Shel Silverstein

Batter Resplatter Pancakes

This Pumpkin Waffle Recipe + Leftover Roasted Red Kuri Squash = A Brand New Pancake!

Whipped Cream

1 cup organic whipping cream
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
Dash of cinnamon
2 Tablespoons AITA Snap

Directions

Chill the cream in a mixing bowl in the freezer until the cream just starts to freeze. Remove from the freezer. Add the vanilla, maple syrup and cinnamon. Use a mixer, on medium speed, to beat until peaks begin to form. Add the Snap liquor and continue to mix until combined. Keep chilled until ready to serve.

enjoy!

A Chance to Celebrate!

July 2012

When my next oldest sister made arrangements to take off  three weeks fromwork for a family vacation, her employer told her, “consider this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!” Though her employer’s words were masking an impending stinginess with vacation days, his phrasing was right! She had indeed experienced the trip of a lifetime. Her winter planning resulted in a three-week-long road trip from the Philly area to Nebraska and back, from sister (me) to sister (the middle one) with a brother in between.

She and her three kids stayed at an inn converted from an old prison. They walked the Gateway Arch. They stared up the seemingly infinite facade of the Sears Tower (and stubbornly called it the “Sears Tower”). They clung to tubes behind a boat in Iowa. They went to the Pony Express station in the tiny, Midwestern town where I entered the world. They presidents immortalized in stone. They followed plans and changed courses spontaneously. Fortunately for me, I was a convenient stopping point on both legs of the trip. My sister’s birthday fell right in the middle of their wanderings, which meant their return to Pittsburgh called for a cake!

Incidentally, this was also the cake that convinced me to buy an air conditioner. You’ll note I added “melted white chocolate” to my cake batter. Though it did make for a subtle sweetness, this choice was both an experiment and the result of the ridiculous temperature of third-floor living in the height of summer. Feel free to use solid chips, should you live in a kitchen that doesn’t melt your chocolate and liquify your coconut oil. As I learned, this cake requires a lot of almond flour, so stock your cupboard accordingly should you want to this cake to be completely gluten free. That was my intention, but after all, life requires frequent changes, and I am the daughter of invention!

Blueberry Almond Cake
(makes 1-9inch bundt cake)

Inspired by this recipe on the beautiful Roost blog, though I veered at the many forks in the road.

Cake Ingredients 

4 1/2 cups Bob’s Redmill organic almond flour
1 1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour*
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

6 eggs (local/free-range)
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 cups honey
2 tsp pure almond extract
2 tsp organic vanilla extract

3/4 cup white chocolate, melted
1 pint fresh blueberries

For the Cake

Preheat oven to 350F.

Grease a 9-inch stone bundt pan.

Combine dry ingredients into a bowl.

Whisk wet ingredients in a separate bowl then add to dry ingredients until a smooth batter has formed.

Stir in the melted white chocolate.

Gently fold blueberries into batter and pour into greased pan.

To prevent the cake from browning, cover with tinfoil and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the tinfoil and continue to bake for another 30 minutes or until a toothpick or knife inserted comes out clean.

Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes.

Flip cake onto a cake stand or plate and drizzle with glaze.

Coconut Butter Icing

Ingredients

8 oz Neufchatel cheese (rBST free)
1/2 cup organic mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup wildflower honey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

Use an electric mixer to combine all the ingredients until thoroughly combined and creamy.

Garnish

Top with fresh fruit (strawberries, peaches, raspberries)!

And remember…

Just because a cake is rather regal, doesn’t mean you have to be! Go craaaazy!

Happy Birthday Tosha!

Frozen Berry Dessert, Part Deux: The Delivery (sans celebrities this time around)

July 2012

My fascination with food is not limited to the how. I’m curious about the who, the what, the where and perhaps most importantly, the why. We associate memories with food. We bond over food. We pass our stories as we pass our plates, and we make friends via our tastes. I already showed you the how for a very memorable frozen berry dessert. It was a failure of sorts, but the revisions succeeded in a way that utterly surprised me! However, the dessert’s story did not end there. I was making that dessert for a summer Sunday-the type of summer Sunday that perfectly reminds me of the happiness growing underfoot!

“The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise grows it under his feet.” ~ James Oppenheim

(A summer Sunday can be downright torturous for a dog who has eyes only for saaaaaausages!)

If we don’t make time, summer’s golden ears will quickly disappear, and grills will enter dormancy.

If we do make time, we might use more butter on golden kernels than we should, just because it’s fancy butter. We might sip more sangria than we should, just to reach the wine-soaked, sangria peaches, bursting with the flavors guarded best by local growing.

If we don’t make time, we might miss the show (sometimes the show is a little racy)…

If we do slow down, we might see what a cold beverage can do to a lady on a hot day. ;P

If we do slow down, we can learn more of our own food story from those who taught us, and we can pass it to those who who care to share it.

If we do slow down, the sky might put on a show in our honor. In our case, the Pittsburgh sky sure was feeling fancy!

The show transitioned to flickering candles and second rounds of adult root beer floats then a downhill stroll to fall asleep to the hum of a fan.

May your hot oven be worked minimally. May your frozen desserts refresh you maximumly! May you enjoy summer’s best hues and lights until a quiet stroll leads you peacefully home!

Frozen Berry Dessert & How A Failed Meringue Led To A Celebrity Encounter

July 2012

The Agenda:
A BBQ/Potluck on one of the best decks in the city, hosted by a loyal and true friend.

The Plan:
A more summery version of this maple mousse pie.

The Fail, the EPIC FAIL:
The mousse pie recipe has a meringue component. Oh that meringue! I totally bombarded it with hot honey, and the poor, fluffy cloud didn’t stand a chance! It collapsed like an uncapped air mattress under a sleepy soul.

The Recalculation:
I pride myself on being the Daughter of Invention, but try though I did, the meringue had failed. There was no salvaging the eggy mess, so I had to “click” undo a little farther back into my history. What I had was a perfectly good crust, a fresh fruit puree and a new idea borrowed from the very woman who inspired me to improvise- my mom. What I didn’t have was more heavy cream. What I did have was my special one’s car!

Recalculating Route…:
To Whole Foods! To the dairy aisle! (I also tried to buy an air conditioner at Home Depot, but that effort lingered on the fail side of the spectrum).

The Moment That Made Me Grateful the Meringue Had Failed So Miserably:
As I walked to retrieve a cart, I saw a tall man with thick, thick, thick glasses and dark hair. Could it be…no…but…is it? His voice even sounded familiar as he spoke to his shopping companion who was retrieving a cart. She looked familiar as well! It was them! It was! My heart raced a little bit and fluttered with glee.  I worked up the courage to be that dorky fan girl and approach them in the produce aisle.

The Celebrity Encounter:

“Excuse me, I have to ask. Were you in Party Down [ie: one of the best shows ever!!!]?”
“Yeah…yeah, I was, and so was she [points to Kristen Bell as she picked berries].”
“It was such a great show! It got me through the winter! You guys were amazing!”
“Thanks, thanks very much! I’m Martin.  What’s your name?”
“Quelcy.”
“Nice to meet you, Quelcy.”

I was blown away by his sincerity and humility. Not only had he introduced himself, but he had taken the time to ask my name, repeat it, and furthermore, he had pronounced it correctly! I asked about the rumors of a comeback movie, and he said they had to keep pushing the writers! Meanwhile, the two of them were in Pittsburgh “to pick up some food at Whole Foods” and to shoot a movie together. Between Anne Hathaway in my yoga class and Party Down cast members at Whole Foods, Pittsburgh is becoming quite the little Hollywood.

The Uplifting Moral of the Story

Have you ever noticed how most life lessons have at least one kitchen counterpart? Susan Sarandon (and others probably) said, “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not doing anything.” Had I not failed my meringue but persevered with my dessert, I wouldn’t have had the serendipitous encounter in the produce section. Silly as it may seem, that little twist in my day really set a positive tone for my week. On top of the encounter, my friends really enjoyed the dessert.  All in all, I am a really lucky girl, and it pays to appreciate these moments in life!

Coconut Walnut Crust

Ingredients

2 cups walnuts
3 Tablespoons organic light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
4 Tablespoons organic coconut oil
1 teaspoon organic almond extract

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spread the walnuts on a parchment lined baking stone, and bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until fragrant. Let cool completely.

In a food processor, pulse the walnuts, brown sugar, nutmeg and almond extract until the nuts are finely chopped.

Add the coconut oil, and pulse to incorporate.

Press the crumbs into a 9-inch springform pan in an even layer.

Refrigerate until firm.

I know science would say otherwise, but I prefer to see the making of whipped cream akin to the making of magic. Suddenly cold, heavy cream turns into fluffy clouds.  The bowl of clouds holds the imagination if you stare and allow yourself a spoonful of creativity while the mixing blades spin. What do you see, friends..?

Whipped Cream Filling

Ingredients

1 pint organic heavy cream, chilled
8 oz organic Neufchatel cheese
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup wildflower amber honey
3 Tablespoons Kraken Rum (or the like)

Directions

In a large bowl, beat the heavy cream and the Neufchatel cheese until soft peaks form.

Add the vanilla, honey and rum and beat until combined.

Scoop the filling onto the crust, and spread evenly.

Fruit Filling

3 cups cherries, pits removed
1 cup fresh blueberries

Directions

Puree the cherries and blueberries in a food processor. Either set the fruit puree aside or strain to drain off some of the excess juices.

Add the fruit in dollops, and use knife to swirl the fruit with the filling.

Freeze until the top begins to set slightly. Remove from the freezer, and add the fruit garnishes. Return to freezer, and freeze until firm.

Garnish

4-5 large strawberries, sliced
Blackberries to your aesthetic liking

The revised and rather improvised dessert remained in the freezer until the kielbasa was grilled, loaded with fixins on a bun and eaten with corn on the cob and fancy butter. The dessert remained in the freezer while the band played atop a neighborhood hill. The dessert remained in the freezer until the happy neighbors returned to the deck with the beautiful views of a sky changing from blue to pink.  Stay tuned, and I’ll show you what that all looked like.

-QTK

Lobster By Night/Lobster By Day

Lobster by Night
March 2012 

It had been a while since the two of us had gathered at my dining room table, so I proposed a date of the domestic sort.  As I began menu scheming, I turned to the stained and tattered pages of my trusted America’s Test Kitchen magazine, through which I have faithfully been working.  When I saw a lobster recipe with the words “lazy man” in the title, I found that weekend’s winner!

Yes, that is frozen lobster.  I love him (↓), and I love a special dinner, but I was in no way prepared to teach myself how to thwack a bright red, living thing with grabbers and claws! Sorry friends.  Not this time!  My other justification was this- if I am going to teach myself how to thwack a bright red, living thing with grabbers and claws, I’m not going to cut up the meat and bake it in a gratin.

The recipe had me with this opening description…

Lobster is a classic choice for an elegant dinner for two.  Most people boil or steam their crustaceans and serve them whole with a side of drawn butter.  While there’s nothing wrong with this simple, traditional approach, fumbling around with a cooked lobster, hammering down on shells and poking around for meat isn’t exactly a tidy affair.  I wanted a refined lobster dinner for a couple that delivered the sweet, rich flavor of lobster and didn’t require a bib to eat.  – Dan Zuccarello, America’s Test Kitchen Books

Lazy Man’s Lobster for Two (By Night)
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen magazine

Filling

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme
Dash of cayenne pepper
4 teaspoons whole-wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup red wine (cabernet sauvignon)
8 oz vegetable broth
1/3 cup organic heavy cream
12 ounces lobster meat (frozen), chopped coarse
1 Tablespoon minced fresh sage
Yakima smoked salt
Pepper

Topping

1 slice high quality wheat bread
3 Tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 Tablespoon minced sage
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon paprika

For the Filling

Heat the oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering.

Add the shallot and cook until the shallot is softened, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 30 seconds.

Stir in the red wine and simmer until it has nearly evaporated, about 2 minutes.

Stir in the thyme and cayenne.

Whisk in the broth and cream and simmer until the liquid has thickened and reduced to ¾ cup, 10-12 minutes.

Off the heat, add the cooked lobster meat and sage. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Divide the mixture evenly between two 2-cup gratin dishes (or similar baking dish).

For the Topping

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, and heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Pulse the bread in a food processor to coarse crumbs, about 10 pulses.

Combine the bread crumbs, the pecorino, sage, oil and paprika in a bowl.

Sprinkle the topping evenly over the gratins.

Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Salad

Goose Creek Farms Mizuna
2 champagne mangos, peeled, pitted and sliced
1 avocado, sliced
green peas

Dressing

Juice from 1 honey tangerine
1 Tbs. sesame oil
1/4c low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1Tbs. black sesame seeds

My own personal mixologist shook up one of my favorites:

Buffalo Trace bourbon
AITA Snap
Peychaud’s bitters
Dried cherries rehydrated with bourbon

Well, he actually shook up TWO of those for me!

Lobster by Day

The recipe said “Lazy Man’s Lobster For Two,” but that “two” would have to refer to two rather large and very hungry New Englanders as far as I can tell.  Accordingly, “two” for us meant two meals, and our leftovers  transformed into a delicious brunch!

Babies’ first ever poached eggs (a team effort in progress)…

Lazy Man’s Lobster For Two (By Day)

(from the bottom up)
Whole wheat bread, toasted
Speck
Cahill Irish Whiskey Cheese
Leftover Lazy Man’s Lobster (see recipe above)
Poached eggs (from local/free-range eggs)
Smoked black pepper

Leftovers are just new opportunities I say, so Happy Leftovers!

ps:  That’s some leftover Post Patty’s Brunch French Toast on the other side of the plate.  It was quite the morning in the dining room!