Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Our Spring Feast

What's Playing?  MIA Paper Airplanes

Easter has passed for several days now, but I can still taste the memories!  This was my first year being the hostess of our own Easter festivities.  I am so thankful for the wealth of resources that Martha put together and what a day it turned out to be.  For someone like me that is very new to "good things", It felt comforting to have lots of ideas to choose from. 

On Easter Sunday, food, fun and family were plentiful and the rain even held back just long enough for the little ones to collect Easter bunny droppings (eggs) from our front yard. It was definitely a good day! 
Spring Feast 2011 (Easter Sunday)

 Hot Cross Buns with Dried Cherries
picture from marthastewart.com


Recipe from marthastewart.com



  • Yield Makes 30



  • Ingredients

    • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons whole milk
    • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/2 ounce (4 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
    • 6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for bowl and baking sheet
    • Salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
    • 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
    • 4 ounces (3/4 cup) dried cherries, coarsely chopped
    • 4 ounces (3/4 cup) golden raisins, coarsely chopped
    • 1 large egg white
    • 1 tablespoon water
    • 2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
    • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

    Directions

    1. Heat 1 cup milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until it registers 110 degrees on a candy thermometer. Pour milk into a mixer bowl, and fit mixer with a dough hook. With mixer on low speed, add granulated sugar, yeast, butter, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, the nutmeg, cinnamon, and eggs. Add flour, 1 cup at a time, and knead until mixture comes together in a soft, sticky dough. Continue kneading, scraping down hook as needed, until dough is smooth, about 4 minutes.
    2. Add cherries and raisins, and knead to incorporate. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead to distribute dried fruit. Coat a large bowl with butter. Shape dough into a ball, and place in prepared bowl. Cover with a piece of plastic, and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
    3. Generously butter a rimmed baking sheet. Turn dough onto a surface, knead briefly, then divide into 3 pieces. Working with 1 piece at a time, divide each third into 10 pieces, and shape each into a tight ball. (Keep dough covered with plastic.) Place on prepared sheet, spacing 1/2 inch apart. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover with plastic, and let rise in a warm spot until buns have doubled in size and are touching, about 1 hour.
    4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together egg white and water in a small bowl. Brush tops of buns with egg-white wash. Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until golden brown, 20 to 22 minutes. Let cool on sheet on wire rack for 30 minutes.
    5. Whisk together remaining 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons milk, confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Spoon icing into a pastry bag fitted with a plain 1/4-inch round tip, and pipe icing on buns in the shape of a cross. (Alternatively, spoon glaze on buns.) Serve immediately.

    Cook's Note

    These buns are best eaten the day they are made; if you make them the day before, don't pipe the icing across on the tops. Instead, warm the buns the next day in a 300-degree oven, let cool, and then decorate right before serving.


    What are hot cross buns anyway?  Well, I had no idea until I prepared them for Easter.  My mother was never one for telling nursery rhymes, but I vaguely remember her reciting "hot cross buns".  I was in uncharted territory here (not uncommon for me) and I was a little unsure about the icy frosting that was on top...looked a little too sweet.  I don't mind frosting on my cupcakes, but on my bread?  Skip it!

    I was wrong (also not uncommon). From the first bite, I thought, " Darn it!  I've discovered yet another must have food item."  I must say that this year I've been learning to exercise enormous amounts of self control as plate after plate emerge from both oven and countertop.  Yes my friend, this is another must try.  Sweet, doughy (but not too much so) and slightly firm at the same time, it's all that wrapped tightly in a little bun.  Hey, it even comes sugar coated!  At a little larger than bite-size, you will feel like you can just keep popping them into your mouth.  Why not?  The recipe produces 30 of these bad girls!  When I hear the words hot cross buns, I think of some modern band of punk girls rockin' thongs or something. LOL, maybe that's just me, though. 


    The hot cross bun dough
    These organic, dried cherries are wonderful!
    It looks similar to a chocolate chip cookie at this point.  Here, the cherries are being added to the dough.
    Jordan really liked the hot cross buns.  Actually, everyone did.  All 30 disappeared by the end of the day.  Don't look at me *wiping crumbs from mouth*.
    The hot cross buns...yummy!





     Asparagus, Leek and Gruyere Quiche
    picture from marthastewart.com

    Recipe from marthastewart.com



  • Prep Time 20 minutes





  • Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes





  • Yield Serves 6




  • Ingredients

    • 1 tablespoon butter
    • 1 leek (white and light green parts only), halved and thinly sliced, then well washed
    • Coarse salt and ground pepper
    • 1 bunch (1 pound) asparagus, tough ends removed, thinly sliced on the diagonal
    • 4 large eggs
    • 1 1/4 cups half-and-half
    • Ground nutmeg
    • Our Favorite Pie Crust, fitted into a 9-inch pie plate, well chilled
    • 1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese (4 ounces)

    Directions

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in lowest position. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium. Add leek and asparagus; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until asparagus is crisp-tender, 6 to 8 minutes; let cool.
    2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, half-and-half, 1/2 teaspoon salt, teaspoon pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg. Place pie crust on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with cheese; top with asparagus mixture. Pour egg mixture on top.
    3. Bake until center of quiche is just set, 50 to 60 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. (To store, let cool, then refrigerate, up to 1 day. Reheat at 350 degrees until warm in center, about 30 minutes.)

    Cook's Note

    To make sure the vegetables are distributed evenly, spread them in the crust before pouring in the egg mixture.

    This was fantastic!  When asparagus is in season, not only is the price reasonable, but the taste is magnificent.  Oh, I have to mention that Martha's "our favorite pie crust" recipe is the BEST pie crust that I have EVER made!  It was perfect!  I've made my fair share of pie crusts before and it can be very tricky to get the crust to come out right.  Well guys, look no further.  Trust me when I say that this recipe is the best.

    You know something tastes good when you close your eyes to tune out the world because nothing else matters besides what's in your mouth.  It was like that with this quiche.  I'm not a huge fan of eggs but what I really liked about this quiche was that it didn't taste "eggy".  Eating something with a strong "eggy" flavor is a huge food turn off for me.  Unlike some other quiche recipes, this one had no trace of egg flavor at all!  The best part was that each and every slice slowly melted off the knife and formed a perfect little piece of pie on the plate.  It behaves well, stores great for a day or so and will even make you smile the next day.  Where have you been all these years pie crust?  So many times I have shed water in both tear and sweat form over wannabe pie crusts.  The search for the perfect crust is over because you are the real deal! *laughing* 


    The Quiche
    

                                                                     The Pie Crust Recipe
    picture from marthastewart.com

    Recipe from marthastewart.com


  • Prep Time 40 minutes





  • Total Time 3 hours 30 minutes





  • Yield Makes 1 crust



  • Ingredients

    • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for rolling dough
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
    • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
    • 2 tablespoons ice water, plus 2 more, if needed

    Directions

    1. In a food processor, pulse flour, salt, and sugar several times to combine. Add butter. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with just a few pea-size pieces remaining.
    2. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons ice water. Pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed with fingers (if needed, add up to 2 tablespoons more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time). Do not overprocess.
    3. Turn dough out onto a work surface; form dough into a 3/4-inch-thick disk. Wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.
    4. Before baking, unwrap dough; place on a large piece of floured waxed paper. Roll dough to a 14-inch round. Using paper, lift and wrap dough around rolling pin (discarding paper); carefully unroll over a 9-inch pie plate. Gently fit into bottom and up sides of plate.
    5. Trim overhang to 1 inch; fold overhang under itself. Pinch between thumb and forefinger to make a uniform edge around the rim. Crimp edge; refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.

    Cook's Note

    Always start with chilled dough and a well-floured work surface. Chilled dough does not soften as quickly as warmer dough; flour absorbs any moisture and prevents sticking.


          Carrot Vichyssoise
    picture from marthastewart.com



    Martha Stewart Living, Volume 51 July/August 1997
    • Yield Serves 6  

    Ingredients

    • 3 large leeks (1 1/2 pounds), white and light-green parts trimmed
    • 1 medium clove garlic minced
    • 4 small Yukon Gold potatoes (1 1/2 pounds), peeled
    • 5 carrots (9 ounces), peeled
    • 2 1/2 cups Homemade Chicken Stock Homemade Chicken Stock, or canned low-sodium chicken broth, skimmed of fat
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 2 cups whole milk
    • 3 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
    • Olive-oil cooking spray

    Directions

    1. Coarsely chop leeks; place in bowl of cold water. Let stand 5 minutes to rid them of dirt and sand; lift out of water; drain in colander.
    2. Spray bottom of small stockpot with olive-oil spray; place over low heat. Add leeks and garlic; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are wilted, about 12 minutes.
    3. Cut 2 potatoes into small chunks; add to leeks. Slice 3 carrots into 1/4-inch-thick rounds; add to vegetables along with stock, salt, pepper, and 2 cups water. Cover partially, raise heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low; cook until vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in milk, and puree in blender until smooth. Let stand until cool; refrigerate until cold.
    4. Meanwhile, finely julienne remaining 2 potatoes and 2 carrots; place in a small pot of boiling water. Boil until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain; transfer to ice-water bath until cool. Drain; add carrots and potatoes to pureed soup. To serve, divide soup among six bowls, and garnish each with snipped chives.
    I was more impressed with the name of the soup than with its flavor.  The color and gourmet-appeal are totally there, but the flavor?  I did run out of salt and pepper right before making this, so maybe that is one reason for the blandness? Be prepared to kick the spices up a notch as it has a very subtle flavor.  Also, I would suggest adding another half pound or so of carrots to really bring about their flavor and to set them apart from the Russets. 


    It started with a broth...
    Check out the mane on this carrot!
    Carrots and potatoes...mmmmm.
    The vegetables are awaiting the blender.
    Thank you, Dad!  My blender has a broken clutch and would not operate.  So, in the middle of cooking I had to drive over to Dad's to borrow his.  Thanks again!  BTW, I will be dropping it off soon.  Will the coffee be on?
    The chilled soup is finished.

    Coconut-Key Lime Pie
    picture from marthastewart.com

      
    Recipe from marthastewart.com



  • Yield Serves 6 to 8  



  • Ingredients

    • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
    • 1 can (13.5 ounces) unsweetened coconut milk
    • 1/3 cup fresh or bottled Key lime juice
    • 7 large egg yolks
    • 1 Easy Press-In Pie Crust, made with graham crackers
    • 2 cups cold heavy cream
    • 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
    • 3 tablespoons sweetened shredded coconut, toasted

    Directions

    1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together condensed milk, coconut milk, lime juice, and egg yolks until smooth. Pour into crust and bake until set but still slightly wobbly in center, 40 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack, 1 1/2 to 2 hours, then refrigerate 3 hours (or up to 1 day).
    2. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat cream and sugar on high until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes. To serve, top pie with whipped cream and sprinkle with toasted coconut.
                                       
    Easy Press-In Pie Crust
    1. Prep Time 10 minutes
         2.  Total Time 20 minutes plus cooling

              Yield Makes one 9-inch pie crust

    Ingredients
      • 6 ounces cookies (about 12 graham crackers, 46 vanilla wafers, or 30 chocolate wafers, such as Famous)
      • 3 tablespoons sugar
      • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
      • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

      Directions

      1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, pulse cookies until finely ground (you should have about 1 1/2 cups). Add sugar, salt, and butter and pulse until combined.
      2. Firmly press crumb mixture into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch pie plate. (If using a springform pan, press crumbs halfway up sides.) Bake until crust is dry and set, about 12 minutes. Let cool completely
        in plate on a wire rack before filling.

      Cook's Note

      Use a dry, flat-bottomed glass or your fingers to press crumbs into the pie plate, forming a firm layer.
                                                         
    This is a great, organic choice
    
    The pie crust before baking.  Graham crackers rock!
    Chester loves to be in the kitchen when I'm cooking.  He never knows when food will magically drop down to him.  To Chester, this is one of life's greatest mysteries. 
    I used a soy topping instead of the dairy whipped cream.  Soyotoo was the name of the brand that I used.  It was just like real whipped cream!!  The flavor was still very nutty, but the texture could have fooled even the experienced baker.
    Oops! You weren't supposed to see that!  Ok, I love coconut anything...I just had to have a little taste :)
    The coconut-key lime pie

    Recently I've been having trouble digesting dairy.  I'm afraid to say that one day very soon I might have to phase it out of my diet altogether.  It really is getting that bad.  Plus, I notice a very physical difference when I'm off dairy, even after a few days!

    That said, I really wanted to make this pie, but was taken aback by the mounds of luscious whipped cream. Now don't get me wrong, I love dairy.  I always have and I always will.  Since I'm always curious about ingredients and I don't mind experimenting with my food, I went ahead and purchased a soy whipped topping for our dessert.  I'm a skeptic turned believer!  The taste was there and so was the texture.


     Easter Bunny Garland
    picture from marthastewart.com

    This is a super cute garland that looks adorable no matter where it's displayed.  I suggest taking a sheet of paper and folding into a square so that you have one big square (folded over several times).  That way you will be cutting out four bunnies at a time.  Time savers are always a good thing!
    
    -Click on the link below to get the bunny template-


    Daffodil Candy Cups
     picture from marthastewart.com

    -click on the link below for the template-

    http://images.marthastewart.com/images/content/web/pdfs/2011Q2/msl_0411_daffodil_candycups.pdf


    These paper daffs scream spring!  If you want to find a local vendor that carries the mini cupcake papers then check out Jo-ann craft store.  


     Bunny Ear Napkins
    picture from marthastewart.com

    -Click on the link below for better instructions-

    Thanks, Martha but the instructions were way over my head!  I'm still wet behind my lil' bunny ears.

    This is the very first year that I've actually attempted napkin art.  I'm the kind of woman that counts her blessings so when a hot meal gets placed upon the table, I'm pleased.  This year though, I took it one step further.  I attempted to make the bunny ear napkins that I had seen on marthastewart.com.

    Yup, couldn't do it.  After several tries, I handed this project over to Ben.  THANK YOU, BEN!  He found a comment about this project on Martha's website and a woman said that Good Housekeeping had an excellent site for this.  I've included the site below for you to check out. 
    http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/holiday-ideas/funny-bunny-folds-instructions?click=main_sr

    Our Bunny Napkins


    Natural Egg Coloring

    Red- Beet  Green- Spinach  Yellow- Calendula  Brown- Coffee
    Also- consider using balsamic vinegar for the brown dye.
    Simmering...
    Gabriel is really proud of his eggs!  Fyi, for darker colors just leave the eggs in the dye longer. 
    Sarah is ecstatic!  When I asked her If I could take a picture of her eggs she was thrilled.

    Morgan's Minute

    I'm four months deep into my blog.  How do I feel?  Is my life different?  Is the quality improving?  Well, these are all very good questions.  I have answers for some, but most of those answers will reveal themselves in time.  I can tell you that It has not been easy because taking care of small children while tending our farm consumes most of my my waking hours.  Time for other "luxuries" is made by sacrafice...often times that means less sleep for me.  I should get a t-shirt that reads, "Fueled By Creative Passion...not just caffeine".


    Our family is just like yours; we are merely trying to make our everyday existence into something spectacular.   We all want to feel as if our lives are like a treasure, special and important and treated with respect.  So, this is what I've set out to do. I hope no experience is necessary...


    Frankly, the most difficult task is not the creative projects or the gourmet meals, but it is the late night computer romps till 2 AM that exhaust me.  I could compare this to gardening.  Just like planting seeds is WAY different from tending a garden (I've recently been blessed with this understanding when my small farm turned into a 300 plant tomato farm...all by accident!  More on that later...).  Would I have it any other way? NO!  I enjoy recording and sharing with you, dear reader, how much creativity, curiosity and culinary passion has elevated our lives.  I've already discovered that being a gourmet home chef is 80 % spunk and 20 % skill.  I'm learning that improving ones life is mostly about desire and has little to do with anything else like money or more time.

    Thanks for sticking around and who knows where you and I will be at the end of this adventure...ready to find out?  Until next time...

                                                             Live Well,

                                                                          Morgan


    Misc. Picture Gallery

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