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La Petite Maison Verte

La Petite Maison Verte: July 2010

Friday, July 30, 2010

Blueberry Baked Bliss

If I haven't mentioned it before, I absolutely *LOVE* Ina Garten, aka The Barefoot Contessa. I've made a number of her recipes and I cannot think of a single one that didn't turn out beautifully. We enjoyed her Banana Sour Cream Pancakes for breakfast and her Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries for dessert. Her Lemon Yogurt Cake is light, tart and perfectly citrusy and the Blueberry Sauce is perfect as an accompaniment to the cake as well as any number of different baked goods (pancakes, cheesecake, ice cream, etc.).
The most impressive thing to me about Ina is her versatility (and yes, I usually refer to her as Ina as though we are on a first name basis). Not only are her desserts excellent but I've been equally as happy with the results of her lunch and dinner recipes. I consider her Greek Salad Dressing a stand-by, and I have frequently used her Mustard Chicken Salad recipe with leftover roasted chicken (using her method for roasting the chicken, of course!!) I've also made Ina's Tomato and Goat Cheese Tarts with rave reviews from everyone who has tasted them.

I can honestly say these are just a FEW of the many Barefoot Contessa recipes that I have made and enjoyed. Well a few days ago I had a craving for a blueberry dessert and remembered that I had bookmarked a recipe for Blueberry Crumb Cake by none other than my favorite queen of the kitchen, Ina Garten. I had all of the ingredients on hand so I immediately set about to baking and let me tell you, I have no regrets in spite of the messy kitchen I was left to clean up afterwards :) AND Bonus: Blueberries are perfectly in-season right now and so not only are they readily available in every market and grocery store but they're inexpensive too! YAY for saving money!

The cake smelled amazing as it was baking in the oven and when I served it for dessert last night both B and I HAD to have seconds. I'm not exaggerating. It is very much a breakfast or brunch cake but we couldn't wait for breakfast! I especially enjoyed the hint of cinnamon and nutmeg and the note of lemon, and found the dense crumb just perfect for this dessert. I should say that I doubled the amount of lemon zest that the recipe called for and substituted some non-fat greek yogurt for half of the sour cream (and used light sour cream for the other half). I also substituted some light brown sugar for the white sugar in the cake, just because I could :) (You can find my adapted version of the recipe below and the original recipe via Food Network)

When I was making and assembling it, I thought there was too much streusel topping and I certainly think the cake would have been delicious with even half that was called-for, but I like streusel so the abundance did not bother me in the least :)

Next time you've got a container of blueberries sitting in your fridge and you're trying to think of something to serve for breakfast, brunch or dessert I hope you'll try this cake. I don't think you'll regret it!

mise en place

Blueberry Crumb Cake

adapted from The Barefoot Contessa

For the streusel:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

For the cake:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (3/4 stick)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/3 cup light sour cream
1/3 cup nonfat greek yogurt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 heaping cup fresh blueberries
Confectioners' sugar for sprinkling (optional, I omitted)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9-inch round baking pan or 8x8 square pan.

For the streusel:
Combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl. Stir in the melted butter and then the flour. Mix well and set aside.

For the cake:
Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla, lemon zest, and sour cream/yogurt. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Take 1 tablespoon of the flour mixture and toss with the blueberries (this helps them not sink to the bottom of the pan during baking. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Fold in half of the blueberries and stir with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out with a knife. Scatter the reserved blueberries evenly over the top of the batter. With your fingers, crumble the topping evenly over the batter. Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely and serve sprinkled with confectioners' sugar if desired.

streusel topping before being put onto the cake batter

the finished product

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Vintage Desserts

I like to watch the Today Show in the morning. Really, I should clarify - I like to watch the first hour or two of the Today Show. After that, it just devolves into an excess of wine-drinking and celebrity gossip. Now, I like celeb gossip just as much as the next gal but that's why I follow certain fine "news" outlets religiously (i.e. PopSugar, TMZ, People, to name a few). But I digress....

Anyhow, this morning the Today Show featured a segment on these old-fashioned desserts. I'm all about bringing back vintage treats (remember my recent experience baking pigs in a blanket?) so this really piqued my interest, especially the recipe for Chocolate Blackout Cake.

Photo from Cooks Illustrated

When I try it, I'll be sure to post how it turns out!

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The NYC apartment of Carrie and John Preston

A bunch of my NC ladies and I went to see Sex and the City II last night. We only paid $2 at the movie theater on base. And drinks, popcorn and candy are each only $1.

I might just start going to the movies again....

We all decided the movie was silly, over the top, dragged on a little too long and felt anticlimactic. But I was completely enamored of Carrie & Big's apartment....

The Dining Room - I love the combination of colors, textures and patterns. And what an awesome chandelier....

The living room - I love the unexpectedness of the blue couch (my husband would never let me get a couch like that), and the artwork on the wall behind it. And that chandelier peeking out from the hallway to the right....

And of pièce de résistance

Carrie's closet - I love how Carrie's side is so romantic and feminine and the contrast with Big's side of the closet which is the picture of masculinity.

Le sigh> Here's to dreaming....

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Lecture de L'été

One of my favorite things to do pendant l'été is read. Maybe its the warm afternoons spent relaxing at the beach. Maybe its the abundance of time and lack of studying to do. Maybe its the fact that when I was a kid, the local public library would actually give us prizes for reading books during the summertime....

Even though I'm an adult now and nobody's handing me coupons for free McDonald's milkshakes for every 5 books I read, I still can't stop myself.

Right now I'm working on Jane Austen's Emma. It's lovely. I read it with a british my head :)

What are you reading?

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It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Last weekend our friends hosted a "Christmas in July" party. Naturally, that meant cooking up all kinds of delicious holiday treats.

Nothing screams old-fashioned holiday indulgence more than tiny hotdogs wrapped in crescent dough and baked. I'd never made pigs in a blanket before but they were pretty delicious, and I served them with some tangy honey mustard dipping sauce. I think they complimented eachother perfectly! I won't post a recipe because there's really nothing to it and you can easily google "pigs in a blanket" and find a recipe, but I will say the turkey cocktail-size mini hotdogs that I substituted for pork or beef were great and nobody missed the extra calories :)

And I don't know about you but for me it wouldn't really be Christmas without the desserts. My grandma is the Christmas cookie-baker in our family (and my mom makes a really delicious cookie that we all love). I don't have any of my own recipes for favorite cookies but I'd been wanting to try to make Baked's Chocolate Peanut Butter Crispy Bars for some time now. I'd seen the recipe in their book when we visited Charleston and of course being the chocolate-peanut butter lover that I am, I knew I had to to make it. I thought the Christmas party was the perfect opportunity to try it out.

I have to say that while I really enjoyed the combination of chocolate and peanut butter in these little bars, I did not like the crisp rice layer at all. In all fairness, I didn't use a candy thermometer when I was cooking the corn syrup and sugar (my pan was too shallow to allow for an accurate reading by a candy thermometer) so I suspect the goopy, wet, sticky consistency of the krispies was due to undercooking of the sugar syrup. They still tasted good but I was very dissapointed with the way it stuck all over my fingers (in a not fun way). They were also SO rich! And that's saying a lot considering I'll eat a whole slice of cheesecake without batting an eyelash. The recipe made an 8x8 pan which was supposed to be cut into 9 squares. Instead, I cut it into 16 squares and then cut each of those in half, forming 32 small triangles which were much more manageable.

Check out this cute cookie tin I bought for 10 cents at a yard sale last fall...

Elmo...and Snuffleupagus!! How cute :)

The party was lots of fun. The decorations were beautiful and the treats were lovely! And my favorite part of the evening was the Christmas music!!

Here's the recipe:

Peanut Butter Crispy Bars
from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

1 3/4 cups rice crispy cereal
1/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp light corn syrup
3 tbsp butter, melted

peanut butter layer
5 ounces milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup creamy peanut butter

chocolate topping
3 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp light corn syrup
4 tbsp unsalted butter

To make the crust:
Spray an 8″ square pan with nonstick spray.
Put the cereal in a large bowl and set aside.
Carefully mix the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high. Insert a candy thermometer and boil until the mixture is 235 F.
Remove from heat, stir in the melted butter, then pour over the cereal and mix quickly and thoroughly. Press into the prepared pan and let cool while you make the peanut butter layer.

To make the peanut butter layer: Melt the milk chocolate and peanut butter together in the top of a double boiler over gently simmering water. Stir until smooth, then pour over the crust and chill for an hour or until set.

To make the chocolate topping: Clean out the double boiler, then put the dark chocolate, corn syrup, and butter in it and put it over medium-low heat. Stir until smooth, then remove from the heat, cool for about 30 seconds (stirring constantly), then pour all over the peanut butter layer. Chill for another hour so the topping can harden, then cut the bars into small squares to serve.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Can you handle the HEAT?

This is today's forecast.

But despite the heat, Hudson still needs his morning walk. So I took him...

At least someone is enjoying this hot weather...

My beautiful succulent plants. They're LOVING it :)

Try to stay cool today. Have a popsicle :)

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sweet sweet summertime

Did I ever tell you that we went strawberry picking?

Well then I guess I'm telling you now. We had been seeing homemade roadside signs advertising "U - Pick" berry patches for a few weeks and had tried stopping at one once, only it was apparently too early on a Sunday morning and the place was closed. How were we to know that berry farmers aren't awake at 8:30 on a Sunday morning?

Well, we finally made a second attempt and this time proved to be more fruitful (OK, OK sorry for the awful pun...I have to admit, I did crack myself up as I was writing it. Alright, moving on now....)

I will say that we had a lot of fun, even though it was a little late in the Strawberry season and most of the berries were surprisingly small. And I was a little dissapointed that the teenage boy who was the only person working at the berry patch could not tell me if any pesticides or fertilizers had been used on the berries...but besides that, it was lots of fun! Oh, and eating the berries was fun too :)

Berries on the vine

No doggies allowed :(

And this is how we enjoyed our strawberry-windfall later that evening :)

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

And I'm back!

First of all I have to apologize that I've been MIA for the past, oh I don't know, month or so. I know all of you, my dear readers, have been pining away for my mouthwatering recipes and inspiring dialogue. But I promise that over the next few blog posts I will be filling your minds (and gullets) with even more of the sensational cuisine and hilarious ramblings that you have come to know and love.

Actually, my absence did have a reason behind it. I was studying for my boards, you see I'm a physical therapist but in order to (legally) practice my craft, I have to be licenced in North Carolina, my current state of residence. Well, I guess all of my studying paid off because last Thursday I took my boards and this past Saturday I found out that I PASSED them! I received the packet in the mail WAAAY faster than I thought I would (and I suspect my husband was behind expediting the scores but he won't admit it). So it's not that I didn't want to blog, I just didn't have TIME!

Well, now that a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders I am back and oh boy, do I have a treat for you! To celebrate my parents being in town for the weekend and my passing the boards, I made chocolate ice cream and homemade profiteroles. What do you get when you combine the two?? In a word, heaven. On a plate.

But I have made you wait so long, I shall dally no more. Without further ado, the recipes:

Decadent Chocolate Ice Cream
recipe adapted from The Nesting Project

1 1/2 cups 2% milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
4 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
8 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips (I used a combination because it's what I had on hand)
1 TBSP instant coffee granules
2 tsp vanilla extract

Combine the milk and cream together in a saucepan set on medium heat. In a separate bowl whisk eggs and sugar. When milk is hot but not boiling take off the burner and SLOWLY pour into the eggs in a small stream while whisking the eggs. Make sure you REALLY take your time with this step otherwise you WILL wind up with scrambled eggs in your ice cream (and trust me, that is pretty disgusting)

Return the mixture into the saucepan set on medium-low and heat, stirring, until it thickens and mixture can coat the back of a spoon (I use a candy thermometer set into the pan and heat the custard to 170 degrees). Take off the burner and mix in the bittersweet chocolate, vanilla extract and coffee granules. Mix until it melts. Place in a bowl and chill completely. Once completely chilled, freeze in your ice cream maker according to the instructions.

Note: You really need to cool the cooked custard COMPLETELY before you put it in the ice cream maker. I usually refrigerate it overnight but if you're in a hurry you can set the bowl over an ice bath and that cools it quicker. (For my mom, who says she doesn't know what an ice bath is - its a bigger bowl containing ice and water, and then you set the smaller bowl containing the custard down into the icy cold water).

adapted from the Barefoot Contessa - this version is adapted to make 9 puffs, the recipe can be doubled...because you never know when you're going to need 18 cream puffs ;)

1/2 cup milk
1/2 stick unsalted butter
pinch kosher salt
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 extra large eggs

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Heat the milk, butter, and salt over medium heat until scalded. When the butter is melted, add the flour all at once and beat it with a spoon until the mixture comes together and forms a dough. Cook, stirring constantly, over low heat for 2 minutes. The flour will begin to coat the bottom of the pan.

Dump the hot mixture into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the eggs and pulse until the eggs are incorporated into the dough and the mixture is thick.

Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a large plain round tip. Pipe in mounds 11/2 inches wide and 1 inch high onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (You can also use two spoons to scoop out the mixture and shape the puffs with damp fingers, as I do). You should have about 9 puffs. With a wet finger, lightly press down the swirl at the top of each puff.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly browned, then turn off the oven and allow them to sit for another 5-10 minutes, until they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Make a small slit in the side of each puff to allow the steam to escape and set aside to cool.

To assemble the Ice Cream Profiteroles:

Cut the top off the (cooled) profiteroles and place a scoop of ice cream on the bottom half and replace the top. Garnish with whipped cream, sliced strawberries and chocolate sauce drizzled ALL OVER everything :)
I've made these profiteroles with strawberry ice cream and swimming in hot fudge, as well as brown sugar ice cream drizzled with caramel sauce. Really, you cannot go wrong. Use your imagination and come up with any combination of ice cream and sauce. I prefer homemade ice cream, but if you use store-bought I won't tell anyone.

Now go get cooking, you know you want to.

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