Monday, December 24, 2007

An Auntie Mame Christmas

This is another one in the long list of Christmas movies we love. If you scroll down, you can click on a scene from the movie. I love technology. Like Auntie Mame's Christmas, this season has been a little rough. But what we lack in "stuff" we make up in laughter, joy and love. And good food. We were blessed to have my sister spend the Christmas weekend with us and once again we had great time. A baked ham, potatoes, salad, bread, and no less than two desserts, a simple meal yet so delicious. I forgot to take pictures of the "60 Second Chocolate Mousse" darn it, maybe next year! We are grateful for our blessings and to be able to share them with others.

Sure, it's been a little rough this season, but you know, nothing gets you out of feeling sorry for yourself like helping somebody else. I stuffed gift bags and we cooked a Christmas meal at the church for those in the community who are in real need. I set out cots and blankets, put up tables and chairs, and helped cook at the shelter. I helped the parish nurse administer flu shots, doing the necessary paperwork with the clients.

I tell you this personal data about me, not to sound like a goody-goody, but to let you know who I am and what I believe is the answer to the big questions---Action. I am not Oprah nor do I have the resources to do grand things like the great and powerful. I admire her resolve and determination, and I look to this coming year for the great and powerful to lead us. (GET OUT AND VOTE!) What I can offer are the small things, minor tasks, simple meals. If you need to know more, look up Isaiah 58 and Matthew 25. Enough said.

While I poured the punch and coffee for the clients, I realized that Penny Lane, the kitty at the top of this page, lives a better life than the folks we serve. She sleeps on top of a brand new comforter on my bed, has all the food and water she wants, and gets lots of love from us. I also thought about how lovingly so many folks come out and give of themselves during the holidays. Bless you all for doing your part. One last thing---Remember that men, women and children are in need all year, and if you get a chance, please support your local organizations with your time, your talents, and your financial contributions.

God bless you and Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Coffee Bucks Cranberry Bliss Clone

Face it, you can't get away from them. The love of my life, comedian Lewis Black does a bit about being stuck in Houston, standing on the street between two "Coffee Bucks" on opposite corners of each other. ARRGH! They are everywhere, and if you try to run and hide, they will be there waiting for you. "Coffee Bucks" is the stage name for the coffee house on "Scrubs" where everybody goes to get a java fix. And I really don't want to upset them so the name is changed, but you get the idea, verdad?

A few years ago I tried their Cranberry Bliss bar, and based on the in-store advertising, I was expecting a taste similar to a less-fruity fruitcake flavor. Boy, was I wrong. Yikes! It was dense, waaay too sweet, and the spices were off. I was on the verge of a sugar buzz and had to wash it down with a Venti. Hmm? Maybe that was their ploy, make me gag on this yucky sweet stuff so I'd buy a bigger coffee. I give up, it worked. But this little "limited time only" confection deserved a better fate. The concept was good, it just needed to be tweaked and toned down a bit.

Monica and I both worked on our own formulas. There were a few Cranberry Bliss clones out in the blog-o-spheres, but none had the taste and texture I was trying to achieve. I wanted something more tender and less chewy, so I used a combination of baking soda AND baking powder. I also wanted to try almond flavor instead of vanilla, to work with the tartness of the cranberries. Next time I may use rum or brandy and see what happens, but that is for another day. Then the spices were adjusted, decreasing the cloves and nutmeg, and adding cinnamon. Most important, I cut waaay back on the sugar, the amount of white chocolate chips and left off the thick coating of icing altogether. Instead these little clone bars get a light dusting of confectioner's sugar or icing sugar, making them just sweet enough without putting anybody into a coma. Here is my 2007 Edition of the Cranberry Bliss Clone---enjoy!

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temp
1 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs, beaten
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoon vanilla OR rum OR brandy
---OR 1 teaspoon vanilla AND 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cup unbleached AP flour or King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats, not quick cooking or instant
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 cup white chocolate chips, plus more if desired
Confectioner's sugar for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.
Cream butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs, spices, vanilla, salt, baking powder, baking soda. Add flour and mix just till smooth. Mix in cranberries, nuts and chocolate by hand, gently scraping the bottom of the bowl. Spread into prepared pan, and even out the top. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until it pulls away from the side of the pan and a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes. Cut into bars. Dust with confectioner's sugar and if you must insist on making them sweeter, go ahead and melt 1/4 cup of white chocolate chips and drizzle over the top. But let me warn you, it's sweet enough already.
Makes 16-24 bars depending on how you cut them up.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I'm Dreaming of Flaming Ice Cream Snowballs

Last week I was thinking about things that are no longer around, like Bonomo's Turkish Taffy and Toddy. Then I remembered an ice cream treat we enjoyed as a kids. I did a Google search and there they were. Other people were also interested, there are quite a few posts about this special ice cream. See them, flying throughout the blog-o-sphere! Yes, folks, they were real, Flaming Ice Cream Snowballs, the Holiday Treat dreams are made of. Vanilla ice cream covered with a soft icing, dipped into finely chopped coconut, iced with green and red frosting to look like holly. They came in a kit, I think there were 6 in a box, with doilies, candles, and holly icing. My Grandma served them to us kids every Christmas. The Foremost Dairy company made them and we enjoyed this special dessert at Grandma's house. My parents were strict about sugary stuff, only on holidays and birthday. "Snowballs!" we screamed when Grandma set them out on the dining table. She used her very best china, and one by one, she lit each candle. The trick was to keep the flame going, not let it blow out, while eating the ice cream. Sometimes the candle fell over, sometimes it just blew out. But it was delicious, and I wish these Flaming Ice Cream Snowballs from Foremost were still around.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Persimmon Madeleines

Like I have nothing better to do, I was reading David Lebovitz's blog. Lo and behold, through one of the posted links I found another recipe for persimmons! This time they are used in a beautiful madeleine cookie. We will attempt this one sometime this week. Don't touch that dial, we'll be right back.

This is way cool, all you have to do is click on the title above and will automatically pop-up! "I love technology" especially when I know how to use it. Scroll down to the persimmon madeleine recipe, it sounds delicious. Be patient with me, I am still learning---enjoy!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

"Reese's" Peanut Butter Cookie Correction

Muchas Gracias! Thanks to a reader for bringing this to my attention. This was part of our cookie extravaganza last year. A photo will be posted later this coming week. Keep those cards and letters coming in, we need all the help we can get!
"REESES COOKIES" - adapted from Spirit of Christmas
makes about 30 cookies

1 1/2 cup unbleached AP flour, or King Arthur White Whole Wheat AP flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter, divided---NO CHUNKY!
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tiny pinch of salt
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar on a plate for dipping

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and 1/4 cup peanut butter until creamy smooth. Gradually add in the two half-cups each of the brown and granulated sugars. Add the egg and vanilla. In another bowl, combine the flour, soda, salt and cocoa, stir to aerate. Add to the peanut butter mixture and blend well.

In another bowl, combine the remaining 3/4 cup of peanut butter and the powdered sugar. With clean, floured hands, scoop out and shape into 1-inch balls.

Scoop out a tablespoon of the chocolate dough, flatten it out just a bit and then carefully it shape around a peanut butter ball, covering as best you can.

Place the covered cookie balls about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Dip a flat bottomed drinking glass into the plate with the granulated sugar. Gently flatten each ball to about a 1-1/2 inch diameter circle with the glass bottom. Dip the glass bottom into the sugar each time. Do not go squisha-squisha on them, you are not Trogdor! Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool on the baking sheets and then transfer to racks and cool completely before tasting.

Monday, December 03, 2007

"That's What Friends Are For" Tea Cakes

Rod Stewart sings that famous song in the final scene of the comedy "Night Shift" while Shelly Long, Michael Keaton and Henry Winkler walk into the cold dark night, after reconnecting as friends in yet (yes folks!) another New York-based movie. An uptight clerk, a goof-off, and a call girl, yeah, doesn't that spell Christmas? This time the story really does take place around the holidays, beginning with spending time in night court on Thanksgiving night. Later on in the movie, Henry Winkler's character receives a unique Christmas present, a fur-trimmed pimp hat! Nothing says the holidays like a sleazy gift from hookers. I won't give too much away, but it really is funny.

But the real charm of this movie is the genuine friendship that grows between these three unlikely characters and it actually changes them. Where I come from, the message of Christmas is to save us all "when we had gone astray" just like in the carol. What more can I say, it's a wacky Christmas story. Through their support of each other they all give up their sleazy ways, and really, isn't that what friends are for? Tidings of comfort and joy, that's true friendship.

Martino's Bakery in Burbank makes the most delicious little cakes, these two are the cranberry cake and the tea cake. You are sure to make lots of friends if you bring these little gems along to your next holiday function. Moist, tender with a hint of honey in the icing. The cranberry cakes are also wonderful, with the tartness of the cranberries to offset the sweetness. They are plated next to my favorite Christmas mug, a hand-painted import from Italy. Stop by Martino's and check out their selections of gelatos and many other holiday treats, like their beautiful Gingerbread Houses and Christmas Tree Coffee Cakes. Offer some comfort and joy to your friends with these sweet treats from Martino's, that's what friends are for!

The Original Martino's Bakery
335 N. Victory Blvd.
Burbank CA 91502
818-842-0715 phone
818-842-5111 fax

Sunday, December 02, 2007

"My Favorite Year" and a cookie

Another one of our family's favorite movies is "My Favorite Year," about a young comedy writer on a TV show during the 1950's. The story is about the time he is called upon to "babysit" the show's guest star for the week, a character based on the actor Errol Flynn. I know, it's not about Christmas, but there's a cringe-worthy scene where Benjy must take his guest star to have dinner with his family in Brooklyn, oy! I am sure none of you have folks who embarrass you and your guests---you lucky ones. With my folks it was mandatory to make me squirm and blush with their little family tales. Hey, what good are the holidays without your family trying to make you look like a fool, especially in front of someone you are trying to impress.

This cookie recipe reminds of watching this movie with my kids. It originally came with a little booklet (no longer published) by the good people who make M&M's candy. Like this movie, this cookie is tender, soft, sweet, and a little nutty. Enjoy!

M&M’s Classic Christmas Cookies – adapted from M&M’s website

1 cup (2 sticks or 240mL) butter or margarine softened
1/2 cup (120mL) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (120mL) firmly packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (480mL) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups (12 ounces) M&M'S® Red & Green peanut candy
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). In a mixer bowl fitted with paddle attachment cream butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine flour, baking soda and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper. Slowly blend into creamed mixture. Stir in M&M'S gently by hand. Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls about 2 inches (50mm) apart onto cookie sheets lined with parchment. Press one or two additional candies on top of each cookie if desired. Bake 10 to 13 minutes or just until edges are lightly browned and centers are still soft. Do not burninate these cookies. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets to allow carry-over cooking, and then gently remove with a spatula to cool completely on wire racks. Some candy pieces will split, and the color will spread, fear not, this is normal. Store in a tightly covered container, or place in bags for gifts. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

"Hark, I hear the cannons roar!"

TCM ran "Radio Days" this afternoon, my favorite Woody Allen movie. This begins my tribute to Christmas movies and treats. Yeah, you're right, it's not about Jesus, but a lot of the action takes place during the holidays. I've never seen winter in New York, but the scenes of the city dusted with snow make it look like a Christmas globe. My favorite line in the movie happens while Mia Farrow's character tries to get rid of her heavy accent with the help of a dialect coach. "Hark, hark," she tries over and over in front of the bathroom mirror. There is another scene where she ends up in the kitchen of a gangster's Italian mama. I won't give it away, but you must see the movie for yourself.

This easy and delicious "Farm Wife's Tart" comes from Marcella Hazan's "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" by way of "The Amateur Gourmet" blog. The original recipe calls for fresh peeled pears, but I have made this simple tart many times using different fruits such as pineapple chunks, apples, and even fresh berries. Right now there is an abundance of Fuyu persimmons, and at a good price at the local 99 Ranch Market on Atlantic & Garvey in Monterey Park. These are the sweet, crunchy, apple-like texture persimmons, not other ones that must be fully ripe and mushy before using. In honor of Italian mamas everywhere we present the Farm Wife's Persimmon Tart.

THE FARM WIFE'S PERSIMMON TART - adapted from "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" and "The Amateur Gourmet" blog

2 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 cup granulated sugar
pinch of plain salt
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 to 2 lbs. coarsely chopped persimmons
dash of cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
1/4 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for pan
additional flour or fine plain bread crumbs for pan
confectioners or icing sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch cake pan and dust with flour or bread crumbs. I usually omit the dusting step, this cake easily comes out of the pan. Beat the eggs and the milk together in a medium bowl. Add sugar and salt, continue to beat. Add the flour, seasonings and mix to the consistency of a thick pancake batter. Add the chopped chunk fruit and fold in, scraping the bottom of the bowl. Spread into the prepared cake pan, smooth the top, then add the 1/4 cup of cold butter pieces, dotting the top. Bake for about 45 to 50 minutes, or until the top is browned. Invert the cake onto a plate, then onto the serving platter. Dust lightly with confectioners sugar, serve warm. Makes 8-10 servings.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

Si, comadres, it has been quite a while since the last post. Much is going on, most of it very good. However, after a few courageous attempts at putting a bit more sabor into this blog, it was nearly was wiped off the dashboard. Ay-yai, yai! After much time spent in prayer and a good deal of persistence, La Vida Dulce came back to life. Gracias a Dios!

Just in time for a post-Thanksgiving dessert, we present a lovely little confection, adapted from an Emily Luchetti recipe recently presented on the PBS show, "The Holiday Table" with that kind looking gentleman, Chris Fennimore. Dede Wilson hosted the show with him in seasons past, but Emily is truly up to the task. She is one of my favorite pastry chefs, you must check out her books from the library or on Rather than individual little cakes, this one was baked the old-fashioned way in an old cast iron skillet. Add a dollop of sweetened whipped cream, or serve with vanilla ice cream as shown above, it's a nice contrast to the tartness of the cranberries. Enjoy!

adapted from Emily Luchetti, "The Holiday Table"

1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup plus extra fresh cranberries
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
2 large eggs
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup AP flour, white whole wheat is OK, it gives a nuttier flavor
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Into a 10" cast iron skillet, add the butter and brown sugar and place in the oven. While the butter is melting, into a large mixing bowl whisk the eggs, pumpkin and oil. Sift the dry ingredients onto a sheet of waxed paper, then stir them into the pumpkin mixture, do not over-mix.

Remove the cast iron pan from the oven and stir the butter and sugar until smooth. Place a layer of cranberries on the bottom of the pan, then add the chopped pecans. Spread the pumpkin batter over the top, in an even layer. Return to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a dinner knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes, then place a cake plate on top of the skillet and invert the cake. Serve warm with sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

What Kind of Pizza Are You?

What Your Pizza Reveals

People may tell you that you have a small appetite... but you aren't under eating. You just aren't a pig.

You are a very picky pizza eater. Not any pizza will do. You fit in best in the Northeast part of the US.

You like food that's traditional and well crafted. You aren't impressed with "gourmet" foods.

You are generous, outgoing, and considerate with your choices.

You are cultured and intellectual. You should consider traveling to Vienna.

The stereotype that best fits you is guy or girl next door. Hey, there's nothing wrong with being average.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Chef Chadwick's Foccacia

(Please note: Since my last post there have been a number of funerals. It has been a tough couple of months. Vaya con Dios a todos.)

This is probably the best foccacia formula ever. Chef added caramelized onions on top, cooked in olive oil with a splash of balsamic vinegar, along with some herbage. The smell from the oven was intoxicating. When it was taken out of the oven and placed on the bread table, all the baking students came around and begged for a piece. In memory of Chef Gordon Chadwick, it is posted here. Muchas gracias a Chef. Enjoy!

FOCCACIA - yield one full sheet pan or two large cookie sheets
1/4 oz. instant yeast
18 oz. water
14 oz. bread flour
3 oz. instant potato buds, not flakes
2 oz. corn flour or semolina
1 oz. olive oil
1/4 oz. honey
1/4 oz. salt
dried oregano or basil, coarse salt, fresh rosemary sprigs, to taste
additional olive oil
parmesan cheese
Sponge - 5 parts AP flour and 6-7 parts water

Mix sponge, cover and let sit overnight in a large plastic bucket. Next day when ready, assemble equipment and all ingredients.
Use the straight dough method, which basically means to dump it all into the mixer at once. Mix with dough hook on medium speed to incorporate all ingredients. Place mixed dough onto a well oiled sheet pan and spread it out as far as it will go. Let rise in a warm place, preferably in an oven with the light on. After about an hour, remove dough and dimple the top with your fingertips. Sprinkle with herbage and a good amount of olive oil. Don't be stingy. The bottom crust will absorb the oil in the pan. Top with a generous amount of onions. Bake at 450 degrees F about 15 minutes, until golden brown. Sprinkle on parmesan cheese and continue baking for another 5 minutes, so as to not burn the cheese. Let cool in pan, cut into squares and serve.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Chef Chadwick

Chef Chadwick was our baking instructor in culinary school, specializing in breads. Thank you Chef, for your guidance, your laughter, your bread formulas, and your spirit.
We will all miss you so much. Vaya con Dios, Chef Chadwick.

Here is the obit from the Pasadena Star News:
CHADWICK-Gordon "Tommy" Thomas, Jr., born August 17, 1954 in Utica, New York to Gordon Thomas Chadwick,Sr. and Marie Irene Chadwick, joined his mother and father in heaven on August 17, 2007, returning to God in honor. Gordon, known as Tommy to his family, was raised in California, where he worked at his mom and dad's restaurant. He then became a Chef, and then a Chef Instructor, at the California School of Culinary Arts Le Cordon Bleu and Los Angeles Trade Tech Community College. He was loved and appreciated for his kindness and soft teaching methods, passing on his love of baking to his students. Gordon received many awards for his baking techniques. Tommy was kind, gentle, giving, nurturing, forgiving, and humble - he was all that God expects us to be. If we all strived to be more like him this world would be a much better place. His favorite celebration was Christmas. He was an excellent son and brother, and he loved his Momma above all else. He will be missed by all. Gordon was a giving and patient companion to his fiancee, Merida, whom he loved dearly. Surely the Angels are singing as Tommy is baking his secret sourdough bread formula, and now Heaven smells even better. Walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing him, being fruitful in every good work. I Cor. 1:10 The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart. Psalm 34:18 Chef Chadwick is survived by his brother Daniel and his wife Rhonda, his uncle John and his wife Ann, and his fiancee Merida. Goodbye sweet beloved brother, nephew, teacher, friend, and companion. We will all surely miss you until we meet again.
Cabot & Sons, Pasadena Published in the Pasadena Star-News on 8/26/2007.

Friday, July 13, 2007

We'll Be Right Back After These Messages

1. Finally got our new hookup and we're back online. Thanks Mike!

2. Camera is ready. New computer is ready. New keyboard is ready. Now I gotta find the photo connection plug. Ayyayyay!

3. JURY DUTY. We shall see how this goes with regard to time, but I do hope to have a few posts while I serve. For now I will catch up with posts from last month, during the computer changeover.

4. New cookbooks arrived at the La Vida Dulce cocina, so we must try out these new recipes.

5. Thanks to my MD and my amiga Viola, I am on Weight Watchers. It is amazing what you can do with portobello mushrooms, salsa, whole wheat tortillas and a smidgen of frijoles.

Mas chismes y mas recetas. Y menos de calorias! Tastes great, less filling. That will work for me!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Back Into The Kitchen

Must be feeling better. Went into the kitchen and saw all the old, out-dated spices, herbs, condiments, and seasonings in the pantry. Dumped all that stuff out. Yeah, I am feeling better.

Thanks to everyone for all the phone calls, cards, e-mails, and good thoughts. All your kindness has helped tremendously, and it is the best medicine in the world. Nothing is better than having good friends and family. Nothing.

Now it's back to the store to stock up the pantry again. And maybe shop around for a Weber smoker or grill---or both!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

On The Back Burner

Yes, it has been quite some time since something was posted here. Didn't exactly fall off the face of the earth, but it felt like that. Let's just say that here at La Vida Dulce it has not been very Dulce lately. All things Vida have mainly been on the back burner for a long time now.

It began with showing up at work one morning, and then promptly heading back home. A sudden illness knocked me flat and it was weeks before I could even begin to feel and look human again. Thanks to an understanding and compassionate doctor, I am hoping to get back on track soon, and moving along those greased grooves. Keep sending all the good thoughts, it helps.

Meanwhile, back at el rancho, as the strength was returning to these old bones, it was time to get off the couch and find something to do that didn't require a nap afterward. I am happy to report I finally finished organizing the mountain of recipe clippings I collected into notebooks and sheet protectors. That stack of paper was on the back burner for years, tucked into file folders and boxes. But now it's all neatly stored into TWELVE volumes.
Chef Gio's Hor's D'oeuvres - from 2nd semester
Culinary Information - mostly miscellaneous info
Chocolates, Jams & Candy, Beverages - real good stuff
Soups, salads, sides, veggies - gotta have my taters
Quick breads, breakfasts, snacks - more good stuff
Seafood & Fish - shrimp masala, shrimp tacos, ginger shrimp, sesame shrimp...
Cakes, Frosting & Icing, Decorating - good and fun stuff
Meats, Pastas, Poultry - mostly pork
Pies, Tarts & Tortes, Desserts - this should be split into two volumes
Cookies, Bars, Brownies - who knew there were so many
Breads, Flours, Techniques - mostly info ala Harold McGee/Alton Brown/Shirley Corriher
Bread Formulas - wonderful stuff

It is awesome to read through these notebooks. I had no idea what a treasure I had kept on the back burner, so now it's time to get back in the kitchen and try them out.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Mark Ruffalo on Bravo This Monday

Yes, I did mention that I'd post the luscious chocolate cupcake recipe but, here's some equally tasty info. One of my favorite yummy actors will be interviewed on Bravo this coming Monday night. You gotta love a guy who can play a stoner dude in one movie, then do the "Thriller" dance in a sappy little chick flick. I am sorry to admit I watched that one, and regret that I'm never gonna get that time back. I have seen almost all his movies, so catch this interview, from the promos, it looks like a good one.
As they say, watch what happens!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

David Lebovitz Chocolate Cream Cheese Cupcake

One of our students made this decadently luscious confection this week. It was even better the next day, the flavors more richly developed. I am encouraged that one of the students in this class would be adventurous enough to try such a complex dessert, but this class is amazing. I am looking forward to more exciting desserts, creativity, and challenging culinary efforts from this class. I will post the recipe next week, they borrowed my David Lebovitz book on chocolate!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Beatles Redux by the Smithereens

Just checked out the Smithereens official website and found out they released a Beatles tribute album "Meet The Beatles" doing every song in order. What, you say, why that's unheard of, blasphemy! Well, check it out for yourself. They have captured the spirit and energy of the first Beatles album released in the USA, and it is brilliant! It may be the best tribute album ever. Although I love Frank Sinatra, his vocals on Beatles songs were corny and cringe-worthy. The same for all the other artists, and they only seemed to get cheesier. The one exception was Dionne Farris' "Blackbird" on her "Wild Seed Wild Flower" album. But now this new Smithereens take on a classic album of mostly forgotten tunes, (except for "I Saw Her Standing There" and "I Want To Hold Your Hand") is astonishingly fresh and vibrant. Too bad for me, missed them last week in Hollywood, and the concert was only $20 bucks! Darn it, I'll be sure to catch them next time around. Yes, I know, this has nothing to do with cuisine or pastry, but anything about the Beatles is so much a part of the person I am, the news of this new album had to be announced here. Funny, there was a metal button in my jewelry box that said "Viva Los Beatles" --- wish I knew where it went.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Harvest King Foccacia

Rose Levy Beranbaum is one of my culinary heroes. Not only is she the author of "The Bread Bible" and "The Cake Bible" but she is also a wonderful teacher. Her PBS show "Baking Magic" is one of the best for learning baking techniques. The blog site "Real Baking with Rose Levy Beranbaum" is one of the best. Lots of recipes, photos, product info. Check out her archive posts. If you have a question that has not been previously addressed, write to her. She actually will respond to your baking questions. I especially like that she gives the measurements of her recipes in volume and weights, in both ounces and grams.

This weekend we are baking her "Harvest King Foccacia" using the new flour from Gold Medal, and adding in a bit of sun-dried tomato from Trader Joe's, chopped pepperoncini from Costco, and a sprinkling of Bel Gioso grated parmesan from Ralphs to finish after it is done (we don't like that burnt cheese taste you sometimes get from topping the parmesan at the beginning of baking). A glass of wine, a big salad, and that makes a meal. Tutti mangia!

adapted from "Real Baking with Rose Levy Beranbaum"
(Also makes great pizza!)
Almost 2 pounds/876 grams of dough

3 cups/1 pound/454 grams Harvest King flour
1/4 cup/1.25 ounces/35 grams whole wheat flour
1-1/4 teaspoons rapid rise, bread machine or other instant yeast
1-1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1-1/2 cups/12.5 ounces/354 grams room temperature water
1 teaspoon mild honey, such as clover
1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil plus 4 teaspoons for oiling the pan and top of bread
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary needles
fleur de sel or kosher salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
4 oz. sun-dried tomatoes rehydrated in olive oil
2 oz. chopped pepperoncini
4 oz. grated parmesan
A baking sheet or half size sheet pan

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the bread flour, whole wheat flour and yeast. Then whisk in the salt. Stir in the water, honey, and oil. Using a mixer with a dough hook or by hand with a wooden spoon, knead (if by hand stir vigorously) for about 3 minutes or until the dough begins to come away form the sides of the bowl. It will not come away completely and should be very sticky to the touch.
Scrape the dough into an oiled bowl and lightly spray or oil the top of the dough. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set in a warm spot. Allow the dough to rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours. After the first 30 minutes, scrape the dough onto an oiled counter and with oiled hands stretch it and give it a business letter fold. Repeat this a second time. The dough will no longer stick to your fingers.
Set the dough back in the bowl and let it finish rising. (Stick a finger into the center of the dough and if it keeps the indentation it’s ready.) If baking it the following day, press down the dough and set it in a large oiled zipper type storage bag, leaving a tiny bit unzipped for the forming gas to escape, and refrigerate it. Remove it to room temperature 1 hour before shaping.
When ready to shape the dough, spread 2 teaspoons of oil onto the baking sheet and set the dough on top. Flatten the dough gently with your fingertips to about 12 inches by 5 inches and 1/2 inch high. Try to keep as much air in the dough as possible. Oil the top of the dough with 2 teaspoons of oil. Cover with a large container or oiled plastic wrap and allow it to rise until doubled to 1 inch high--about 1 hour.

While the dough is rising, set the oven rack toward the bottom and place a baking stone or baking sheet on it. Set a cast iron skillet or heavy baking pan on the floor of the oven or on the lowest shelf.
Preheat the oven to 475F. for 45 minutes or longer.
With your finger tips, deeply dimple the dough all over. Sprinkle with the rosemary, sun-dried tomatoes, pepperoncini, salt, and pepper. Quickly but gently set the baking sheet on the hot stone or hot baking sheet, and toss 1/2 cup of ice cubes into the pan beneath. Immediately shut the door and bake 5 minutes. Turn the sheet half way around and continue baking 10 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. (An instant read thermometer inserted into the center will read about 210°F.).
Remove the bread to a wire rack and immediately sprinkle on grated parmesan. Allow to cool completely or until just warm.

Monday, February 19, 2007

All Da Kine

The daughter and her husband have been visiting with us. It happens to be right in the middle of changes in schedules, work on the house, birfcakes, and a whole assortment of family adventures. We have spent some relaxing time together, enjoyed some delicious meals, and visited local museum exhibits. But no matter how long the trip it is never enough time, because it went by so quickly, and now they have to return to their island paradise home. Take me along with you! Next time for sure. Thanks guys, and a special thank you for my Lewis Black autographed poster and for all da kine.

Friday, February 16, 2007

"Chef, where do they keep the elbow grease?"

New kitchen, new surroundings, new faces. Lo siento mucho, I have been so blog-deficient lately. Even missed the "Poulet Surprise" deadline on Peanut Butter Etouffee, darn it. However, time spent sleeping over-rules the time for blogging. Yes, 4:00 a.m. comes around real quick, no more Conan O'Brien, no more David Letterman for me. The reality is that while most of you are fast asleep in a warm bed, and maybe lucky enough to share it with a warm someone, I am already at work, firing up the ovens, unlocking the walk-ins, starting up that first pot of coffee, proofing the doughs. And I love every moment of it!

As soon as I get into a groove, and things settle down a bit, I will be able to devote proper time to be posting on a regular basis. For now, please keep those good thoughts coming, I need all I can get! Muchas gracias a todos.

Overheard once in the zen kitchen:
"Chef, how long do I cook it?" the student asks.
"Till it's done!" replies the chef.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Groundhog's Day Culinary Style

Comedy Central is running this movie all day today. It had me thinking about what day would I choose to live over and over again, like the Bill Murray character. Of course, my choices were related to a favorite meal, restaurant experiences, or the days spent in culinary school. It was hard to narrow it down, there are so many.

That one experience would have to be the day I spent making fresh pasta with my kids. Fetuccine was everywhere, all over the house! We opened all the cupboard doors and hung the freshly made noodles over the top. Flour all over our faces and the pasta bubbling, ready to eat in just moments. I made a meat sauce and we ate all of it, all that pasta, no leftovers. Probably one of the best days of my life.

So, I ask you, what culinary moment in your life would you like to re-live, and do it over and over again? Maybe you have a few, that's fine. Let me know, and if your Groundhog's Day moment includes a recipe, so please post that as well.

They will all be out here next week, so look for our pasta post coming up soon!
"You're the best!"

Monday, January 22, 2007

Tokyo Lobby & A Very Merry Un-Birfcake!

As schedules would have it, we decided to forego our usual January family Birfcake celebrations and chose instead to enjoy an evening out on the town. This was truly going to be a very merry Un-Birfcake! We didn't need the freeway, not even the major streets. I guided our driver, one of the celebrants, through my neighborhood short cuts. Of course he complained about having to drive like an old geezer. "Which way? Left or right?" "Follow the curve." "What!?" That had us laughing for the rest of the trip. I try to keep away from the Saturday night traffic with the fender-benders, the looky-looz, and the careless drivers who are always preoccupied and distracted. Driving in and around my 'hood is dangerous, especially at night. However, since finding my way through these side streets, it is a safer and more enjoyable ride. Our driver did eventually agree, it was safer.

I hadn't been to Tokyo Lobby in years. Not exactly the hippest or fanciest Japanese restaurant. The plate presentations are nothing spectacular. But the place is always packed, with lots of families and groups out to have fun. It has an atmosphere that is friendly and although it presently has a "B" rating, that did nothing to stop the crowds from lining up at the hostess station. Neither did the cold weather, and since we had to wait to be seated, that front door kept opening and closing, letting the brisk air to keep our minds off the wait. All around us were smiling people, knowing that soon they'd be served food like on the platters and boats and bridges that passed by. I actually observed a group conversation stop mid-sentence to watch a server with a boat. Yes, boats and bridges filled with tempura, ribs, steak, chops, fish and sushi!

As soon as we were seated our server presented us with a huge menu offering countless combinations, boats and bridges. Pages and pages of sushi. Nearly everything is pictured, so if you are uncertain, just point at the picture! The "hi sign" is to close the menu book, then your server quickly appears to take your order. Being a small group, we declined to order a boat or bridge, but watching them pass by tempted us to re-think our order. We are served the usual tea, tsukemono and soup. Then the first platter of shared sushi is served. Dragon roll, tempura roll and salmon skin roll.

The salmon skin roll was our least favorite, as if it was thrown together, messy and not neatly wrapped, the small salmon pieces falling out. It was hard to decide about which of the others we liked better, the dragon or the tempura, since both were delicious. Next came our individual orders.

These were served promptly and we were surprised to find that they actually looked better than the photos in the menu.Even I cannot eat that much food! Good thing we shared, that sushi combination was delicious, except for the boring California roll. The steak was tender and perfectly cooked, although overly sauced. The tempura was crispy, my favorite piece was the sweet potato. Or was it the shrimp? And since we each ordered combination plates, we were rewarded with a generous scoop of green tea ice cream. It was more food coloring than green tea, but I managed to eat it anyway! Real green tea has an unusual color when mixed into ice cream, a dusty grayish green, not exactly visually appealing. I would have preferred ginger ice cream, but that was not an option here. We sang happy birfcake right along with the large group seated across from us. They served one of those famous Chinese strawberry whipped cream sheet cakes.

It was really more like taking home groceries than a "doggie bag" from Tokyo Lobby. We were shocked to have so much left over and wasted none of it. It may not the hippest, but it sure was lots of fun to celebrate a very merry Un-Birfcake at Tokyo Lobby.

927-K East Las Tunas Drive
San Gabriel, CA 91776
Located in the Albertson Center

Monday, January 15, 2007

Remembering the Cup Noodle Inventor

Look into the cupboard of any American office breakroom, college dorm, or kitchen and you might find one or two styrofoam containers of Cup Noodle. Go open your own cupboard and check. See, I told you so! For many years now these little instant ramen soups have been a staple for college students, soccer moms, busy workers, anyone in a hurry for a quick meal or snack. Even during our current "winter weather" way down into the low 20s and 30s, (yes, laugh at us wimpy Southern Californians, but last week it was over 85 degrees F!) a warm container of Cup Noodle can take the chill off a cold evening.

We noticed the marketing strategy, aimed at the growing numbers of Latino foods purchasers. That shrimp picante flavor is an example. Earlier this month the inventor of the Cup Noodle passed away, Mr. Ando. With respect and admiration for bringing the simple instant ramen soup into the homes of so many around the world, all of us here at La Vida Dulce offer our thanks and appreciation for years of providing a quick lunch, a late night snack, or an after-school treat. Vaya con Dios!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

A Snack Fit For The King, Uh Huh!

Elvis Presley was taken from this world way too soon. Tacky impersonators in bad makeup and polyester suits, slimy lounge singers and many drunken karaoke nights have done nothing to stop our love of the King of Rock and Roll. Somewhere in my cousin's house is her black velvet painting. Elvis is still the King.

In honor of his birthday this month, we would like to present our version of a dulce snack that Elvis might have enjoyed. Sweet enough but not too icky sweet, with some added healthy ingredients, this little treat is yummy with a glass of milk or cup of hot cocoa. That's how I'd like to remember him, up late at night in the kitchen with a couple of these little snacks and maybe hot cup of tea.

This is yet another version of the famous Eagle Brand Magic Cookie bar. Filled with stuff that make it crunchy, sticky, gooey and sweet. Kinda stuck on you!

makes about 3 dozen bars
1 1/2 cups galletas Marias cookie crumbs
1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
1 can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 cups Nestle milk chocolate & peanut butter chips
1 cup dried banana chips
1/2 cup salted peanuts
1 cup miniature marshmallows

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Combine cookie crumbs and melted butter. Press firmly into bottom of 9x13 baking pan. Pour entire can of Eagle Brand onto crumb mixture. Top with remaining ingredients, then press down firmly. Bake for 20-25 minutes or till marshmallows are browned. Cool completely before cutting into bars.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Back To School Winter 2007 & Updates

Ay, que la fregada! (Translation: "What a bother!" It's a colloquial term used in the USA, meaning "a bothersome chore," like doing dishes by hand.)
No posts for a while, too much homework and studying!
Coming up soon right here at La Vida Dulce:
A dessert salute to Elvis in honor of his birthday this month
A tribute to the inventor of a culinary and cultural phenomenon
A search for a perfect hunk of pork in time for Chinese New Year
A happy birfcake celebration
A big Aloha
Don't touch that dial!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Tamale Time 2006 Edicion Numero Cuatro - Ya Basta!

Well, theFrog just called and her care package of tamales just arrived. 4 days too late. Oh well, we tried. The TPO was saddened by having to throw it out in the trash, such a waste. Good thing it was sealed, so as not to stink up everything. I hope they never opened the box.

So, as we finish up our story, here are the other photos. One with the newly folded tamales placed into the big foil roasting pan, ready to get steamed. The next shows them in the pot, with the steam rising up. Ooh, they're almost ready! The last photo is Cousin Johnny holding an empty plate. Lucky guy, he got to eat the first one.

No matter, 1 dozen or 12 dozen, they take about an hour to steam. Save your money, don't pay for a large steamer. I inverted an old Marie Callender's pie tin at the bottom of a stock pot. Then made a large base of scrunched foil and placed that on top the pie tin. You don't want your tamal to bathe in the water, just take a sauna! I made sure there was enough water at the bottom, about a quart at least till it touches the foil. Then we placed the tamales, folded side down, in a circular manner inside the pot. Bring to a boil, then lower the flame to a very low simmer and cover tightly. Check to make sure there is enough water at the bottom, but try to keep the lid on it, or you'll lose the steam. You will know it needs water, because it will start to burn the pot, that smell is nasty and it gets onto the tamales. Yucko! The tamal is ready when it separates from the hoja. Tah-dah!

In all we had about 9-10 dozen to split between us. Not bad, because the cost of our little Tamale Time was less than what we would have paid for only two dozen tamales at the tienda. The left over masa was used for some roasted green pasilla pepper and red bell pepper tamales with two cheeses. These were small but very flavorful, from roasting the peppers.

It is sad that theFrog couldn't taste this batch, but when Michael goes for a visit soon, he promised to bring some along. Store bought? Maybe, we shall see. Adios!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Tamale Time 2006 Edicion Numero Tres

I had hoped to have good news by the time we finished our Tamale Time stories. Unfortunately, the package that was shipped to Monica never arrived. Somewhere between California and Hawaii, there's a soggy box of defrosted tamales, probably stinking to high heaven. Now I have to deal with the carrier. I hope to remain a lady at all times when I talk to these philistines tomorrow. Sorry, baby girl!

The small photo above is the old pyrex bowl filled with the prepped meat combination of pork butt and chuck roast, just taken out of the frige. Next to it is the chile colorado, both a jar of canned and a container of the fresh sauce from my Monterey Park connection. We were hard at work by this time, whipping up the masa, nearly killing the motor of my KitchenAid mixer, testing "will it float?" and checking the seasoning. We finally determined that since it had a good flavor, and our little test tamal separated just fine from the hoja, the masa was ready. We all looked at each other after tasting that little tamal---these are gonna be good!

The hojas (dried corn husks) were soaked in the sink with warm water. I was amazed how clean and sturdy they were. Nana Della always said that if the Christmas hojas were good, it was going to be a good year. Works for me, I love superstitions and old wives tales. Tamale Time 2006 was full on!

Cousin Nicky mixed the meat and chile sauce. I spread the masa, choosing only the best hojas. They were large enough, so you didn't have to piece any together. That comes later, when you start to run out. I spread out the masa only about half way up the hoja, right to the top edge, not too thick and not too thin. Hand off the hoja to my cousin. Then Nicky filled the tamal with the meat mixture, making these tamales more meat than masa. The meat goes in the center, fold over the sides, then turn up the "tail" and you're tamal is done. There's a great instruction sheet on Rick Bayless' Frontera grill site. Now at this point some gente like to tie the tamal. For my family, it just gets in the way of good eatin', having to untie a tamal. Soon the foil roasting pan was filling up with these gorgeous tamales, all ready to be steamed. PS---muchas gracias to theFrog for the camera!
(To be continued...)

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy Birfcake from La Vida Dulce!

Feliz ano nuevo and happy new year to all! This is the one year anniversary of my blog. Thanks to all who visit and leave comments. Best of everything to you for this new year. Tequila shot in hand, everyone salud!