Dispensing Happiness

A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness.-Elsa Schiapirelli

That's me, the magical good cook.

Borrowing from my friend Dexygus, I've created my own food blog.

Read of my exploits in the kitchen! Salivate over the descriptions of fabulous desserts and savory meals I've concocted!

No, seriously...go ahead. It'll make my day.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Spiced Rolls: My First Daring Bakers Challenge


I think the sound I made following breadchick's invitation to join the Daring Baker's was something like 'whooo!'.

I'd seen posts for previous challenges on some of my favorite blogs, and couldn't help but think 'this would be perfect for me'. A group of people who love to bake, a monthly challenge, and lots of support and friendship? Yeah, I'm all over that.

This month, the challenge was Cinnamon Rolls & Sticky Buns. Because it's me, I quite naturally wanted to make both, but I knew I'd never find the time. Since Matt's the big roll lover, I let him pick, and cinnamon rolls it was.

I only wish this recipe had been made available to me back when I suffered from Yeastaphobia; this was the most incredible, pliable, come-together-as-it-should dough I've ever encountered in a cinnamon roll. Iloved it.

It was, however, a bit hard on my poor mixer. I love rockin-and-rollin' as much as the next gal, but not from a kitchen appliance!

The color's a bit off, due to high ceilings and insufficient lighting in the room, but just look at that dough? Isn't it pretty? And what really got me was the smell...I could just tell it was going to be good.

I had worried about the dough rising properly; the temperatures here have finally dropped below the nineties, so I had no idea who long it would take.

I needn't have worried. Perfect dough, nice and puffy.

I hate being asked to roll dough, of any kind, into a square or rectangle...straight sides refuse to be seen on camera. Or, any where I may be working with the rolling pin.

Now, for the good stuff: the spiced filling! Having been given the option of playing with the spices, I gave Matt free rein. He came up with a mix, equal parts cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and allspice, plus some sugar.

This was a very sticky dough...

Not my strong suite: slicing rolled food. Ok, I can cut sushi without much damage, but pastries suffer a bit from the effort.

More proof this recipe is amazing: the rolls puffed up perfecly. Then it was time to bake them...

One of 'side effects' of baking? The entire house smells of bread & spice...here are the rolls, just out of the oven.

Recently glazed. You may notice that one roll is missing? That's because Matt couldn't wait any longer to 'test' the finished product.

They were absolutely perfect. Asked to describe them, Matt came up with 'mmmmm....', and 'can't talk; eating'. I think that sums it up.

Alex enjoyed them, as well. Below, photos of a preschooler at breakfast.

Tagged with: + + + + + + Ginger + Allspice + Cinnamon

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Thai Beef Salad


Matt loves Thai food. I'm not nearly as interested, but we have this crazy notion of making each other happy in this house...so Donna Hay to the rescue.

From her Modern Classics 1 book, a fairly straight-up dish. (Barely) Grilled beef, sliced and placed on salad of greens, red onion, Kaffir lime leaves, chilies, mint & parsley, and dressed with soy sauce, lime juice and a little sugar.

He loved it. I found it a bit strong, one of many reasons I don't go nuts for the stuff the way he does.

But, he was happy. Which was kind of the point.

Tagged with: + + + + +

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Wartime Wednesday: Rolled Cinnamon Bread


Characteristics of a Good Loaf of Bread
SIZE---A 1-pound loaf is a good household size. One cup of liquid and 3 cups of flour will make a loaf weighing about 1 pound.
SHAPE---A well-shaped loaf is symmetrical. The top is rounded but the middle is not appreciably higher than the ends. It's proportions are such that the slices cut from it will be approximately square. There is no bulge over the pans.
COLOR---Well-baked bread has an even golden brown color. The crumb is creamy in color with no streaks through it.
TEXTURE---A slice of bread with perfect texture feels silky smooth to the touch. The holes are small and uniform; there are no streaks or lumps. Perfect texture is the clearest indication of quality and depends upon a number of things: kneading the dough until it is smooth and elastic, allowing it to rise sufficiently and baking at the correct temperature.
CRUST---The crust of a good loaf is smooth and uniformly brown. It may be thick or thin, depending upon the preference.
FLAVOR AND AROMA---A good loaf of bread is fragrant and has a pleasing yet bland flavor.
---The Victory Binding of the American Woman's Cook Book, pub. 1943.

A few years ago, I finally got over my Yeastaphobia; not a strong case, just severe enough to prevent me from enjoying the bread-making process.

I think it was numerous times I made focaccia that finally cured me; I realized I liked doing this, the mixing and the kneading, and seeing proof of my work post-proofing.

I still don't make bread as often as I should, but now that I've made this Rolled Cinnamon Bread, using the VBotAWCB's Standard Recipe for White Bread recipe, I have a feeling I'll be punching down dough with increased frequency.

This may be the finest bread I've ever made, in terms of taste and quality. The usual suspects, water, yeast, sugar, get together, then salt, shortening and sugar are added to scalded milk. They eventually join forces with a few cups of flour, mix, and continue doing so as more flour is added.

I did it all by hand, from the early mixing through the kneading. In the end, I was kneading the bread as if it were pizza dough! But it was fun, it smelled wonderful, and boy, did it rise up and holler!

I let it rise twice, for deeper flavor, and both times it bounced up full and ready to go. At this point, I switched to the cinnamon bread recipe, splitting the dough, rolling each into 9" squares, and covering the surfaces with a mixture of cinnamon and brown sugar.

Pretty standard from there: roll up, place in bread pans, let rise, and then bake.

Find it difficult to pay attention to The Simpsons because the entire house smells like cinnamon and bread.

As you can see, the loaves came out beautifully. And the basic bread recipe itself may just become my standard.

Oh, and toasting & buttering slices of this bread? Heaven in breakfast form.

Tagged with: + + + + + + + +

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Leftover Tuesdays: Due Today!


Today is the day to get your Leftover Tuesdays entries in...you can leave a link here in the comments, or send the URL to me at thehappysorceress at gmail dot com. This is your chance to use up those leftovers, the half-empty cans and boxes, and long-forgotten freezer bags.

Here's a look at last month's round-up.

Throw it together, USE IT UP!, and get your entries in today. I'll have the round-up posted in a few days.

Can't wait to see what you come up with!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Caramel Hazelnut Bars


These beauties are so easy to make, not doing so should demand immediate forfeiture of baking rights.

An unbelievably easy base, flour and butter and salt and vanilla, topped with dulce de leche (the recipe card I used called for 'caramel ice cream topping, but c'mon...what are the odds I'd do that?), and chopped toasted hazelnuts. It gets baked in a moderate oven till the edges are 'golden', and cooled.

Once it is, bittersweet chocolate is drizzled over, and you're ready to eat.

As you know, I rarely eat the stuff I bake, but I just had to try one. And oh, my...there is beauty in simplicity!

The cookie base is smooth and delicious. The caramel/nut combo, with the added bonus of the chocolate, is perfection.

I did decide, though, that when I make this again (and I will), I'm going to top the whole thing with Fleur de sel; that salty extra will make this bar cookie heavenly.

And don't forget!!! Leftover Tuesdays entries are due tomorrow! Here's your chance to Use It Up...a way to take all those food items lying around your cupboards and refrigerator, and find new culinary life for them. I do hope you'll join us!

Tagged with: + + + + +

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Blog Party#26: It's What's Inside---The Round-Up


Welcome to another Blog Party! This month, it's all about What's Inside...and it looks like you came up with so many clever ways to hide one food inside another; I'm impressed!

As always, I like to set the mood (and the table) for the party, so let's get to that first.

Tonight, the music's a bit all over the place: I always back myself into corners with my own themes!

First, we have some early Kate Bush with The Kick Inside.

Next, we get our groove on with Outside Inside, from String Cheese Incident. You're going to love these guys!

And finally, a somewhat newer album from a band I've liked for years; Poco & From the Inside.

I didn't fare much better with the table settings, so I decided to just have fun.

It's mostly girls this month, so no harm decorating girly, right? Everyone gets candy lipstick; get it? Lipstick tube? Candy...inside?

Keeping the sweet theme going, please help yourself to one of my favorite chocolate treats of all time: Gardner's Candies Meltaways. Fabulous chocolate candies covering fillings of peanut butter, caramel, raspberry, and more. I grew up with these things.

And though I'm not sure we have any actual use for them, I couldn't resist these cute soup bowls; they look like pumpkins and squash, but there's something else inside!

And now, on to our guests!

Super-early, the always adorable Brilynn comes bearing a platter of her blog's namesake; Jumbo Empanadas ...how perfect! These beef-stuffed darlings won't last the night, that's for sure. Brilynn, I'm so happy you're here, and that you made these wonderful empanadas tonight!

Next, Tigerfish makes a return to Blog Party...good to see you!
I love discovering what dishes you guys like to make, and even though I'm a vegetarian, I'm going nuts for these Deep-Fried Seafood Wontons! White fish & prawns, vegetables and one of my favorite flavors...sesame oil, stuffed into wontons and fried. Yum!
And Tigerfish hasn't forgotten a drink; some refreshing Carrot Juice to almost make up for the fried food.
Good to have you back, Tigerfish!

Next, we have Virtual Chef, bringing us some much-needed dessert...as well as a male presence! Always good to see the guys here at Blog Party.
And for his contribution, this BP first-timer blows us all away with his gorgeous and decadent Honey Cake in Chest of Milk Chocolate . Wow...amazing. Cake hiding under a coat of chocolate...it's perfect!
So glad you decided to join us this month, enjoy the party!

Another Blog Party newbie, say 'hello' to Pam!
And I know you're going to love her Caprese My Way (that's her way, not mine); basil leaves & tiny tomatoes hidden inside mozzarella...which she made herself!
How beautiful! And darn it all, if it isn't fairly good for you, too.
Excellent, Pam...thanks for coming!

Sara's back, and she's brought a trio of treats for us tonight...and every one of them has something to hide!
She's got some lovely Melon & Prosciutto Bites, some Ham & Cheese Wraps, as well as Stuffed Mini Potato Skins. It all looks so good!
But Sara's not done yet; what's inside that lemonade? Why, Fruit and Mint Ice Cubes, that's what!
Love it, Sara. You're definitely a gal after my own heart...always happy to have you here!

J's back, and to her great surprise...she's not the last one through the door! J also prepared a trio of hidden gems, starting with Mini Beef Wellingtons (great minds, and all that, J...see below!). They look great, and there's nothing wrong with Seventies food photography!
Next, J has these beautiful Scrambled Eggs in Smoked Salmon bites...Matt's already making his way toward them!
And finally, I know these Oozy Cheesy Meatballs will go over in a big way, and I love that they're served in spoons!
For tonight's 'cocktail', J has the simple but elegant Raspberry Cubes in Seven-Up for everyone.
Perfect, as always! Thanks so much for being here tonight, J.

Be sure to give a Blog Party welcome to Judith, who's attending her very first party!
I'm especially excited, as we don't get a lot of vegetarians...or vegetarian dishes...here. For that reason alone, I'm quite happy with Judith's Ricotta & Tomato-Stuffed Mushrooms. Gorgeous!
And for the 'drink', she's decided a Root Beer Float is the way to go. I doubt you'll get many arguments here, Judith!
We're so glad you could come!

Rounding out the guest list, say 'hi' to Gabi!
No empty-handed guest is Gabi, though, and you're going to go wild for Croque Monsieur Gougeres...oh, my. Some of my favorite flavors, in one dish!
But what really got me was her unbelievably adorable Roly Poly Orange Juice Punch; an orange rolled to release the juices, poked open, topped with pomegranate juice, and served with a straw! I love it!
Thanks so much for coming, Gabi!

Hang on!

We have one more, and very late (although with good reason), guest!

Jeanne has returned!! So happy you could make it, even if did take all night to get here!
And I know you're going to love her Cheese Olives; just don't mistake them for cookies, ok? These bites are definitely savory.
Jeanne's matched them with Dry Martinis with Olives; seems perfect to me.
Extremely happy you could come, Jeanne!

As for me, I have a trio of treats & drinks.

First, Beef Dangan (a minor title given to the Duke of Wellington's youngest brother). It's basically a fully-dressed burger, inside a roll. Cheese, ketchup & mustard on top a tiny hamburger (already grilled), then wrapped in (store-bought: shhh! don't tell) crescent roll dough, and baked. They worked. They were fun, and filling. And the topping possibilities are endless!

To go with, I created the Watermelon Sparkler, watermelon Torani syrup mixed with sparling water, and poured into a red-sugar-rimmed and Pop Rocks filled glass. The instant the liquids hit the candy, fizzing and popping begin. And it's so much fun to drink!

Next, Ginger-Tofu Wontons. Frozen and crumbled tofu is cooked with fresh ginger & garlic, green onions, then flavored even more with sesame oil & soy sauce, and wrapped up in wonton skins. They're then folded and fried, till golden. Serve with a dipping sauce of your choosing.

For this, I'm serving small mugs of vegetarian miso soup (made with konbu, dried mushrooms & red miso), topped with small pieces of nori.

And finally, dessert!

Chocolate-Mint Ravioli Cookies; a light dough, rolled thin, cut into (approximately) one-inch squares, then topped with mint-chocolate pieces (I used Andes Candies bits), topped with another square, sealed, and baked till golden. They're then drizzled with semi-sweet chocolate.
They're really good, and you can pop them into your mouth and eat them in one bite.

For this, I offer the Schoolgirl Sour; small & chewy sour balls are placed in the bottom of a glass, topped with raspberry puree, and finished off with sparkling juice (for this, I used ligonberry & apple). Tart, and a good way to cut the sweetness of the cookies.

Ok,that's another successful Blog Party! You all did an amazing job coming up with filled and stuffed and hidden food gems.

Enjoy the rest of the evening, getting to know the other party guests and sampling the food. For tonight's party-goers, I'll be sending off an email tomorrow, letting you know what October's theme will be. For everyone else, check back 1 October to see what's next!

And don't forget I'm hosting this month's Leftover Tuesdays; entries are due Tuesday of next week!

Tagged with: + + + + + + + + +

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Wartime Wednesday: Country Club Sandwiches


"An encyclopedia published about 1900 defines a sandwich as "an article of food consisting of a slice of meat, fish, fowl or other food placed between two slices of bread, which may be plain of buttered." No such simple definition could be given today, for from these simple beginnings the sandwich has developed in all directions, and has adapted itself to such varied needs that it ranges from a fragile morsel served with afternoon tea to an elaborate combination of toast, meat, lettuce, tomato, sauce, and any number of other things, which combine to make it a complete and satisfying meal."---The Victory Binding of the American Woman's Cook Book, pub. 1943

This was an interesting sandwich. Butter slices of toast, on each lay slices of cooked sausage. Cover with tomato sauce; sprinkle with cheese. On this lay a strip of bacon, and bake in a hot oven until the bacon is crispy.

Surprisingly good, if a bit awkward to eat. I used a slightly thicker bread, I suppose, but it was still a rather satisfying...and filling...sandwich.

Blog Party#26 is coming, and this month, we're focusing on What's Inside! All your favorite appetizers with something to hide, and drinks, too...if you can manage!
Entries are due tomorrow, 20 September; hope to see you there!

Tagged with: + + + + + + + +

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Leftover Tuesdays #8: Use it up


I participated in my first Leftover Tuesdays last month, and to my immense surprise, was the random winner of a shiny new Knife Skills books for my effort!

After that kind of welcome, how could I not offer to host the September edition?

For this month, sticking very closely to the tenet, this month I urge you to adhere to the Yankee way of thinking: "Eat it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do, Do Without".

More simply put, if you've got it lying around your kitchen or pantry, make use of it!

Whatever happens to be taking up space in the refrigerator, or cupboard, toss it together and see what happens.

And when you've done that, post about it and send that info to me.

Taking my own advice, we did that very thing, creating what we have now dubbed 'Cheese Drawer Baked Pasta'.

I decided it was time to clear out the cheese drawer, and with help from Alex on the food processor, got a nice mix of the following: Provolone, Cantal, Parmesan, and that Mexican cheese we can't remember the name of.

Some pasta odds & ends were par-boiled, and mixed with the cheese, some milk and a bit of cream left over from some baking jag. This was then topped with breadcrumbs left from yet another recipe, dotted with butter, and baked.

It was fantastic. One of the best baked pasta dishes we've had in some time. And a good way of using up food items in the kitchen.

Want to join? Here's the important stuff:

So...see what's left over in your kitchen, and get cooking! Use it up!

The Challenge
Leftover Tuesdays is the brainchild of David over at "Cooking Chat" who challenges us to convert our leftovers into new and exciting dishes.

How to submit your entry
1. Do stuff with leftovers by September 26th.
2. Email me at thehappysorceress at gmail dot com with your entry with the subject "Leftover Tuesdays". Be sure to include a link to your post!

Blog Party#26 is coming, and this month, we're focusing on What's Inside! All your favorite appetizers with something to hide, and drinks, too...if you can manage!
Entries are due THIS Thursday, 20 September; hope to see you there!

Tagged with: + + + +

Monday, September 17, 2007

Food for the Soul, Food for the Body


As I'm sure I've mentioned before, I wouldn't want to live in a world without books. Books, and reading, have been such a major part of my life. I survived (and I use that word for it's truest meaning) childhood & adolescence partly because I could escape into a worlds more pleasant, simply by opening the cover of a book.

I will read anything. Matt & I talk about needing little more than 'words in a row' to be happy.

I admit that I've always been drawn to detective stories. Not the mass-produced stories, where there's little plot but lots of WORDS. I don't care for many of the authors and stories out there today.

But I do love a good detective book. I adore Dashiell Hammett. Agatha Christie and I became friends decades ago.

But someone I've only recently gotten into, yet love very much, is Rex Stout. He gave us Nero Wolfe, an agoraphobic, orchid-obsessed, gourmand genius.

The stories are compelling, the style, the prose, captivating. But what really sold me was the food

Stout, and through him, Wolfe, love food. Food and cooking. Debating with his chef over the use of juniper berries in the marinade for venison. Admitting that 40 minutes is too long to expect the average housewife to spend scrambling eggs, but it really must be done to achieve perfection.

Insisting that corn be no more than three hours old when it is delivered to his home, else it is useless, animal feed.

And in cooking that corn, do not, my dear friends, shuck that corn and place it in a pot of boiling water.

Wolfe feels that housewives across American should themselves be boiled in water for committing such an offense.

No, to achieve perfection, corn should be placed into a hot oven, unshucked, and roasted for 40 minutes. Peel at the table and slather with butter. Nothing more.

I have to confess: the old boy was right. This was the sweetest, most succulent corn I've ever had. We roasted the ears in a 400 degree over for exactly 40 minutes, and the smell was so intoxicating I could barely wait.

In fact, the waiting is an issue. The corn smells and looks so good, it's difficult to wait for the internal temperature to drop to a point where it doesn't actually hurt your teeth to eat it.

But the pain? Almost worth it.

Blog Party#26 is coming, and this month, we're focusing on What's Inside! All your favorite appetizers with something to hide, and drinks, too...if you can manage!
Entries are due THIS Thursday, 20 September; hope to see you there!

Tagged with: + + + +

Friday, September 14, 2007

Panutty Brownie Cake


Here's another gap in my culinary memory...

I made this cake for my father-in-law's birthday back in July (I think). I just don't remember where it came from.

I do remember, however, being annoyed at how blue the photos came out!

Blog Party#26 is coming, and this month, we're focusing on What's Inside! All your favorite appetizers with something to hide, and drinks, too...if you can manage!
Entries are due next Thursday, 20 September; hope to see you there!

Tagged with: + + + +

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