Sunday, March 6, 2016

Spring ....

Castello di Amorosa
Spring is just around the corner. And in most corners of the world, it means the crisp chill in the air subsides ever so slightly and a renewed warmth fills the air, the soil on the ground and vitality to branches the have been baron for months at a time. Napa Valley is no exception and it's one of my favorite times of the year to explore this quiet little area to be awed in it's new awakening.
Speaking of exploration and new awakenings, I have also risen from my deep slumber and hibernation from writing on my blog. To my world wide fans, I do apologize for my disappearance from the world wide web and culinary arts. Just like a blossom on a branch, I needed that spark of inspiration and I found it in the City of Calistoga.
 Its funny to me how one slight change can shift your viewpoint from "ho-hum" to "OMG". After having a delicious lunch at my usual haunt, Farmstead Restaurant, and instead of turning left and heading home. I decided to turn right and venture further North towards Calistoga. I have to admit the vineyards in this area are less commercial and small sites that allow you taste wine and shop to what seemed like a vortex that transports you to another Country, land or picturesque photograph.
The long driveways with breathtaking landscapes and hillsides that beckon you to ride to the top on a motorcycle (at least that what my Sweetheart says) and surprisingly .... Castles, with real live actual moats and one curious, yet vein Roster, to protect or amuse the visitors.

Roster ...I'll name him Valiant.

I had promised myself that I would not return to Northern California's wine country because of a "been there, done that" sarcasm and self inflicted yawn of boredom and venture to the South past Carmel for new adventures. But as my Sweetheart pointed out ...why? It's only an hour away and truthfully after venturing further North ...Obviously I've been limited in my scope and not the countryside itself. We didn't go into the wineries themselves and taste their spirits, but the strategic open eye from the vantage point of a motorcycle I might be yet again be inspired.

More to come. More to explore. 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Merry Christmas ... Cake

Merry Christmas Lady E Cooks readers. Wow! 365 days sure does fly by quickly. I've been so busy between work, studying and writing I forgot to post the 2015  Christmas cake.
This year I decided to go beyond my normal Holiday Sweet Potato Pie and try something thats been floating around in my head for a couple of years. A peppermint cake. Does that say Christmas, or what?
I'm a belivever in doctoring up some store bought cakes. Why? If it's a good brand they pretty much have mastered a moist cake... our job is to add personal and artistic touches. I'm also a believer of  taking the seasonal things you love and be creative. I enjoy the fresh taste of peppermint sticks. In a saucepan, take about 6-8 peppermint sticks and dissolve then in 1/2 cup of simmering water and create a syrup. Don't add me it doesn't need it.
Prepare the cake as instructed. I recommend a blank canvas cake, like white cake, that way the peppermint will shine. Once the cake is cooked and out of the oven, pour 1 tablespoon of the cooled syrup over the entire surface of the warm cake and allow to cool. Careful ... be sure to pour the icing on the cake directly, not allowing any of the syrup mixture to drip down the sides of the cake into the pan. The sticky syrup can form a seal a the bottom of the pan and make removal of the cake from the pan very ... challenging. Avoid putting holes in the cake to seep the syrup into the warm cake. It sounds like a good idea, but also can cause a sticky hard to remove mess and goopy mess.
Now, for the icing. Plain ole white icing of butter and sugar will be creamy and allow the peppermint, again, to shine. There are hundreds of white icing recipes on line and are very easy to make. Add the cooled peppermint syrup by adding 2 - 4 tablespoons, to taste, to the icing with mixer on. Be sure to taste after adding 1 tablespoon at a time. We're looking for a hint of peppermint, not make it taste like toothpaste.
On cooled cake spread with an off-set spatula all over the first layer, then place second layer. Spoon the rest of the icing in the center of the cake and gently spread over the cake.
Final touches, place more candy cane in plastic bag and crack with mallet or rolling pin. Sprinkle over the top of the cake and sides.
That's it. Not too and full of flavor for the holidays!  

Next? Champagne cake for NYE..ohhh!
Merry Christmas from the Lady E Cooks family
Every recipe tastes better with love...and a little creative inspiration.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Garys ... JLB Biscotti.

Man-oh-man, am I a good friend. When my friend Gary Prevost requested baked goods for an outing ...what did Lady E do? Brought on the goods with homemade biscotti.  
Now, I can't take full credit for the Culinary Creation, but I can be happy I saw an old show of Gilda at Home featuring holiday biscotti. Giada's recipe calls for the biscotti to be dipped into melted white chocolate. But, since I was making the treats for breakfast, I opted to leave out the chocolate.
If you've never made biscotti... don't hesitate. Run... not walk to your nearby pantry and begin the divine journey into the world of biscotti. I used dried cranberries and almonds for the recipe.
Now, most of you might be saying, "biscotti"? Those dried out pieces of bread that you dip in freshly brewed coffee or espresso? Yuck! Yes, those tasty treats aren't dried out or hard when made at home. Especially, if you reduce the cooking time for both sessions in the oven.
Yes, biscotti is a twice baked biscuit with so many alternatives with dried fruited, nuts and even a jest or two of orange. I even made a second batch to take to work the following week with dark chocolate chips and orange jest. Which in both cases were eaten... every last one.
Adventure on the Italian side of the world and bake a biscotti for the holidays for family and friends. They will know that you cooked it love .... and that makes any recipe better.
Happy Holidays from Lady E and crew.


Monday, November 2, 2015

Lady E Sweet Pockets ...

Sometimes I get the craziest ideas... when I'm either hungry or after a blissful nights sleep. This time it was a combination of both. One night I was craving something sweet. Not just any ole thing... like ice cream or brownies, but a pastry fruit filled bite size morsel.
VoilĂ , Sweet Pockets were born.
I used the same recipe for making Galettes, see previous recipes, and just made them bite sized. Then, this morning I thought, why not make them with cutters that are typically reserved for cookies.
My original vision was a larger disk of pastry on the bottom, fill it with seasonal fruit that has a dash of sugar, lemon juice and jest and then top it with a smaller disk folding the edges over.
Unfortunately, that didn't work as well as I imaged. So, I did the same thing, but use "culinary glue", better known as "egg-wash" to seal a the deal. That worked much better. Different shapes, sizes and fillings later... The sweet pockets were... well, sweet.
Two varieties were made. Strawberry with vanilla sugar and apples with lemon jest. The apples could've used a touch of brown sugar, but in all ...the crust was flaky, butter and filling was tasty. Just the right bite size delight.
It can be a little time consuming and you have to work fast to keep the butter in the dough chilled or you can work in stages... never, allow the butter to become soft the crust won't be flaky.
This would be a great Thanksgiving treat for those who want that little taste of dessert, but don't want a whole slice of pie or cake.
Testing recipes is a good thing... using your imagination is a great thing. Cooking with love... well, you know the rest.
Happy Thanksgiving. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Roasted Chicken with Garlic, Lemon and Thyme.

Yep, that's a chicken. And, yes again... it's upside down. But, let focus on the skin of the juicy, most and delicious looking skin.
Now, that you've had a moment to swallow and wipe your salvation mouth let me tell you this was the most delicious chicken I've ever-EVER tasted from my own kitchen. Typically, I cook portions of the chicken,... tights, breasts...yada, yada,... at a single time with olive oil salt and better. I am single after all and cook small portions for just me.
But, to save money and to experiment, I tried a time tested recipe of spattering room temperature butter all over the outside of the a whole frye3r/chicken and underneath the skin of the breast. I also massaged the cavity before filling it with thyme leaves, quartered yellow onion and lemon. Baked at a whooping 400 degrees for 45 - 60 minutes.
The reason I cooked my chicken upside down... was for two reasons. 1) my small oven for this 5 lb bird wouldn't accommodate the whole chicken with the breast facing up. Shoulda thought of that when I expressed joy at the Butchers... 2) to keep the breast moist. Yeah, that was the reason... to keep the breast moist during the cooking process. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Not only was the entire bird delicious beyond belief, but the flavor was amazing and stayed that way even after refrigerated over night.
Sometimes cooking in the kitchen means using the expertise of well known Chef's.... that love butter as much as I do.
Remember, cooking with love makes any recipe taste better... and everything is better with butter.


Monday, September 7, 2015

Leftover herbs ... no problem

Hello, Lady E Cooks fans! Sorry, I've been absent for a while, but it's been a couple of challenging months at work... and well life. As of today, I have several monthly articles that will post until 2016.            
The first being.... what do you do with all those left over herbs? Toss 'em? Make another dish? I've got a simple idea that will make use of the herbs and last a while with a no fuss no mess method. Herbed butter. Now, I know this isn't a new idea, but if you've never tried it ... take a moment and bring a stick of butter to room temperature. Why you might ask? Well, simply put it's easier to work with and allows the herbs to fully incorporate. First, mince, not chop, your herbs finely. Next in a bowl plop your room temperature butter into a bowl and place the herbs on top. Now, with a fork or plastic spatula blend the two together until smooth. I use was paper next and pour the mixture onto the wax paper. You can use plastic wrap, but I like wax paper to keep odors out. Flatten the mixture and roll in to a tube shape. Twist the ends and your done and done. Simple? Yes. Now, what do you do with it? I use it on fish, pasta, hamburgers patties at the end of cooking or a touch of elegance on a perfectly cooked steak. Whatever you choose it takes the old adage "Waist not, want not" to a flavorful level. Another trick, not shown here, use empty olive oil bottles to create your own dressings. You'll need either fresh or dried herbs a funnel and some sort of vinegar. Fresher taste and the bottle ... is recyclable.
Try new (or old)  methods to take your food accents to another level and most of all remember cooking with love makes any recipe taste better.