Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Recipe #56: My Chocolate Chip Waffle...By Nancy Wittendorfer

Me and my waffle go back, way back, since I was 25...32 years ago to be exact, and I don't know what I ever would have done without it.  This waffle has provided me breakfast, dinner, comfort, a late night snack.  I have doled it out to many of my friends at work...Jeff, Lora, David, Paula, Ryoko, Mikage, Marlys, Jackie, Dan, Megan, Stephanie...just to name a few.  Many years ago I came to the conclusion that every day I MUST have chocolate in "some shape, form or fashion", as my friend, Deon, would say.  Perfect example of this is when my friend, Leslie, and I would travel back east.  Breakfast would usually be provided by the b&b we were staying at, and I can assure you that chocolate of any kind wasn't on the menu.  The closest thing I would come to "getting my fix" would be finding that rare vintage soda fountain that would know how to make a good chocolate malt, or happening upon a country store like Leslie and I did in New Hampshire one trip.  They had homemade fudge, and hence, the addition of rum extract, raisins and walnuts when I make it now.   I make my waffle every day from scratch...every day.  This sounds so decadent, when really, it's 1/2 cup Krusteaz pancake mix and enough water mixed in a bowl to create a batter, then chocolate chips are added...roughly 1/4 cup.  No, you don't put any butter or maple syrup on it, although I have been known to put my waffle on a plate and top the whole thing with a mess of whipped cream.   That said, you should see my chocolate chip pancakes...stacked three high, chocolate chips in the pancakes, chocolate chips in between the pancakes, and topped with whipped cream.  My coworkers were always amazed when I said I made them from scratch every day, and I think many of them were still, perhaps, in awe, that I did this, even as easy as it was.  So on to work my waffle went, in my lunch bag, broken in half and wrapped in plastic, until break time.  Thank goodness we had a toaster oven in the lunchroom, as microwaving this when it's already been baked would turn it super soft, which I know my friend, Deon, (again) would love, but I don't.  After heating it about 5 minutes, the aroma in the lunchroom was truly "waffle", and thank goodness I never got a complaint from any of my coworkers.  Quite the contrary, as some of the mainstay comments were, "it smells great in here" or "Nancy must be working today."  All told, I have gone through 4 Belgium waffle bakers (yes, only 4) and hundreds of pounds of Krusteaz pancake mix and Nestle chocolate chips.   Who would have thought that a bunch of flour, water and chocolate chips could bring me, as well as many of my friends, so much pleasure?  Last year I retired, and I think there were more comments from my coworkers about not having the great smell of my waffle around more than not having me around...they were just kidding...I hope...

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Recipe #55: Nori's Fried Rice

Nori was a dear friend that I worked with about 25 years ago.  She had the kindest heart, and was an absolute pleasure to work with.  It was then that she shared her fried rice recipe, and I make it to this day.  There's very little prep work, and sometimes I even buy the white rice already made from my favorite Chinese restaurant.  The beauty of this recipe is that you can also add some of your own favorites, but my rule of thumb is, always make a recipe as is the first time around.  Then you have a good starting place.

1-2 tsp minced garlic                                              1 cup chopped cabbage (sometimes I use bok choy)
4-5 cups cooked rice                                               1/2 cup small raw shrimp (or cooked tiny shrimp)
1 scallion, both white/green parts, chopped      1/2 cup frozen peas
8 slices Canadian bacon, chopped fine               2 tsp sesame oil
1-2 tbsp soy sauce                                                    1-2 tbsp oyster sauce
canola oil

Heat olive oil in large sauté pan or wok on medium/high heat.   Add garlic, stirring for one minute, or until not burn.  Add shrimp and cabbage and stir fry until shrimp turn pink (if using cooked shrimp, add after a few minutes of cooking cabbage).  Add rice and bacon and stir fry until the rice is evenly coated with the oil.  Add soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil and salt and pepper to may like more soy than oyster, or vice versa.  Stir in peas and green onion and cook for another 2 minutes.  Bon appetit!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Recipe #54: Chocolate Dump Cake, Witt Style

This recipe has been around for years, almost as long as the Pillsbury tunnel-of-fudge cake...for those of you who "don't" remember, you're too young.  The original recipe calls for a package of instant chocolate pudding mix.  It's enough for me that I'm using a packaged cake mix, so at least I'm conceding to that.   I add a few other good things to make this cake extra special.  It's the cake I go to when I don't want anything overly heavy, or a cake that's frosted, which is rare.  But, I do love this cake and hope you will try it.  You can make it either in a bundt or tube pan...

1 package chocolate cake mix                                      1 cup sour cream (sometimes I use light)
4 large eggs                                                                      1/2 cup canola oil
1/3 cup Baileys irish cream (I use Carolans)            2 cups chocolate chips
1 tsp cinnamon (u just get the essence) if you          1/2 cup toasted coconut*
  you like cinnamon, add 2, if you don't, leave          1 tsp flour

* to toast coconut, place on a baking sheet in a 350 oven for about 7-8 minutes...this is an will need to watch this closely as coconut burns fast...

Combine all ingredients, except for chocolate chips, in a standing mixer.  Have mixer on low for the first 2 minutes, then medium for the next 3.  In a medium bowl, add chocolate chips, along with 1 tsp flour.  Toss a number of times to coat chips with flour.  This will prevent the chips from sinking down to the bottom of the cake.  Use your fingers to put chips in mixing bowl...toss any remaining flour.  Stir chips into cake.  Grease and flour a bundt or tube pan.  Pour cake batter into pan, distributing evenly.  Bake at 350 for 45-55 minutes, testing a few times with toothpick, as sometimes you hit a melted chocolate chip.  Always err on the side of the minimum amount of time to bake can always put something back in the oven, but you can't undo something that's overbaked.  Bon appetit!

In this particular cake, I put in both 1/2 cup toasted coconut, 1/3 cup sweetened coconut and the cinnamon, which this cake normally doesn't call for...

Friday, February 13, 2015

Recipe #53: Puff Pastry Raspberry Valentine Hearts

I wanted to get something out to you today, and I played around with this recipe.  It's not rocket science or anything, but the putting together of all the various sizes of the hearts was a little time consuming.  As I am writing this, my experiment is in the oven, baking.  I almost don't want to look when the timer goes off for fear I will see raspberry filling exploded all over the pastry, the pastry not looking like hearts anymore...all kinds of scenarios.  But, the timer "will" go off in a bit, and then I will know.  In the meantime, here is the recipe.

1/2 pkg Pepperidge farm puff pastry                    1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp milk
1/2 cup raspberry preserves                                  sanding sugar
heart cookie cutters

Unfold the puff pastry on a floured counter and you will see 3 sections.  Cut them along each seam so you have three pieces.  Lay two pieces aside.  With a floured rolling pin, and the piece lying lengthwise, I pretty much kept the width the same, as I was starting out with a 4" heart cookie cutter.  I rolled the length to 14", so I would get four hearts.  The plan was to have 12 heart pieces total, so I would get 6 pastries.  That said, I hated to throw out the leftover puff pastry, and rolled it again 3 more times and cut out hearts of all different shapes.  If you have any shapes without a partner, just place it on a larger heart.  Okay, you have your preserves in a bowl ready to go, along with your egg wash, and you have all of your cut out hearts on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Brush a little egg wash around the perimeter of the bottom heart.  Put about a tsp of preserves in the hearts, a little more, a little less, depending on how large, see picture below.  You want to make your filling on the heart in the shape of a heart as well.  Place the second on top, using your finger to lightly give the edges some pressure.  If you want to place smaller hearts on tope of larger ones, just brush egg wash on the smaller heart, and place on the larger one.  So all of your hearts are in place.  Using a fork, put crows feet all around the hearts to make sure they seal. Refrigerate your baking sheet for 20 minutes while you preheat your oven to 400.  Take the baking sheet out, brush the tops of all the hearts with eggwash, and sprinkle with sanding sugar.  Bake about 15-18 minutes, or until brown.  Bon appetit!


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Valentine's Day...Where Are You, My Valentine?

I adore valentine's day.  If you are as old as I am, which is almost 58, you will remember when we bought those little cards that were one-sided, and you wrote your note on the back.  They also came with little square envelopes that were fairly thin, so you knew it was a valentine.  When younger and giving these cards, us kids would try our best to just lay them on our friends' desks at school.  This tactic was used especially if a girl was giving one of these cards to a boy.  I also remember when my dad left school after he taught, he would stop at Gladstone Bakery on Milwaukee Avenue and get my sister, brother and me cupcakes that were lightly tinged with pink frosting, and a heart stuck on top.  To this day I remember those.  And, what about the little boxes of small heart candies with all the sayings on them?  I recently mentioned on facebook that one valentine's day, my late husband flew into Chicago to surprise me at work after he had been recalled to his previous job in San Francisco.  It was such a lovely gesture, but actually turned disastrous as we had a huge argument.  To this day I also remember that, and still feel badly.  I have always been a for no reason, being called during the course of a day just to be told I was being thought of, lit candles on a table, a little gift that actually had thought put behind it...not something the giver wanted themselves, but something they knew I would be tickled with because they took the time to know "me", and what "I" liked.  Now it is a few years later after my late husband has died, and I have no regular sweetheart...I thought I did, but I guess not.  It's quite painful, and on the day where my heart should be in love, my heart is breaking.  I so want another partner...someone to talk to about anything, and everything; someone to hold, whether it be on the couch watching tv, or in bed; someone who wants to sit outside in the middle of the night and watch the stars; someone who is spontaneous, and may buy a little jar of child's bubbles to blow, or draw out a hopscotch game with chalk on the sidewalk.  I don't know if ever I will find him, and yes, it now brings a tear to my eye.  I so want to be in love again...I'm in love with love.  Where oh where is he?  A friend of mine said awhile back that "he's" just around the reply was, what corner?  give me the street intersections.  Many have also told me...just be patient, don't think about it and then it will happen, enjoy your own company.  But dammit, I get tired of enjoying my own company.  Yes, there are meetup groups, but if you're out to find a sweetheart, you will find that if 30 people sign up for something, 27 of them are women.  Am I lonely, yes; am I feeling sorry for myself, you betcha; but if I can't do it, who will do it for me?  Tomorrow is Friday the lucky day...maybe something will happen along the lines of love.  I can only wish, I can only hope...with all my heart.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Recipe # 52: Roasted Carrot, Ginger & Onion Soup Finished with Curry

As I explained with the first roasted carrot soup I featured, most people like this with curry.  But there are those who don't care for curry, hence the two different recipes.  With this particular soup, I roast  carrots, strips of fresh ginger and the onion together after mixing in a bowl with olive oil and brown sugar.  It not only roasts the vegetables, but coats them with a sweetness.  Although the veggies then go into the soup, the coating dissolves, leaving a sweet undernote.   Also, when  I started pureeing the soup, I started with two of the strips of ginger...if you bite into it after roasting, the impact is still pretty much there, but the ginger is now somewhat candied.  You may want to start this way also, and keep adding the ginger to your own liking.  Same with the curry powder.  I finished off the soup with a little sour cream put into a ziplock bag, cutting the tip, and swirling around the bowl.  Taking a toothpick, you can go any which way you can't really ruin it unless you play with it too much.  Mine sort of took on a flower pattern.  I finished with a few croutons. 

1 1/2 lbs carrots, peeled and cut into sticks            1 3" piece of ginger, cut into 4-5 long strips
1 onion, quartered, with pieces split apart              2 tbsp oil
3 tbsp dark brown sugar                                         1/4 tsp salt
4 cups chicken stock                                              1-2 tsp curry powder, depending how much
pinch of cayenne pepper                                             heat you like

Put carrots, ginger and onion in a large bowl.  Add the olive oil, brown sugar and salt.  Mix with hands.  Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 400 about 30 minutes, or until carrots just start to brown.  Remove from oven.  In a dutch oven, pour in chicken stock.  Add the carrot mixture, stir until combined.  Bring soup to a boil, then simmer on low for 10 minutes with lid on.  Remove the ginger pieces.  In batches, puree carrot soup mixture, along with 1-2 ginger strips, tasting and adding more if you desire.   Put soup back into dutch oven.  Add curry powder, 1 tsp at a time.   Bon appetit!


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Recipe #51: Roasted Carrot & Parsnip Soup with White Wine

Many people wouldn't think of carrot if they were asked to name what they thought were the top 5 soups.  To me, it's somewhat of an afterthought of a soup.  Most recipes are made with curry to give the delicate flavor of the carrot a kick.  But, there are those who are not fans of curry, hence, this recipe.  Parsnips are in the carrot family...carrots have a sweet taste, whereas a parsnip can a sweet/spicy taste, but nothing like curry.  This soup has more of a quiet taste of carrot, parsnip, thyme and white wine.  A pretty basic soup, but the roasting of the carrots and parsnips gives it a little edge over just steaming them before beginning the soup. 

1 1/2 lbs carrots, peeled and cut into 1" pieces         2 tbsp light brown sugar
1/2 lb parsnips, peeled and cut into 1" pieces           2 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp butter
2 large shallots, peeled and sliced                               5 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine                                                  1 tsp thyme
salt and pepper

Place carrots and parsnips in a large bowl with the olive oil and brown sugar.  Bake in a 400 oven for about 30-40 minutes, until the vegetables start to brown.  Remove from oven.  In a dutch oven, heat the butter and saute shallots until translucent, about 5-7 minutes.  Put carrots and parsnips in pot with shallots, then add the chicken stock, (see below).  Stir and simmer on low for about 15 minutes.  Add white wine, salt, pepper and thyme, and simmer for another 10 minutes.  Put soup through blender, I use my Nutribullet, to liquefy.  Put back in dutch oven.  At this point, you may need to add more chicken stock if the soup is too thick for your liking.  Add, then put back on low heat for another 10 minutes. Bon appetit!

In the picture below, I peeled some carrot and parsnip for garnish.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Why Don't You Open a Bakery? Part 2

I posted part 1 of this article on November 8 2014...this is part 2...

Bakeries here in Seattle are not like the bakeries were back in Chicago.  If you are from the Midwest, you would know what I mean.  Let me start with a little historical culture.  The time was back in the 1960's.  We lived in Niles, Illinois.  At the time, there was a bakery called Niles Pastry Shop on Milwaukee Avenue.  The minute you walked in, your senses would be filled with the smell of breads, pastries, cookies, pies.  Your eyes would feast on rows upon rows of shelves on the wall behind the counter filled with different kinds of danish and coffeecakes.  You would have apricot filled, custard filled, raspberry filled, cherry filled and apple filled Danish; custard-filled bismarks, jelly-filled doughnuts rolled in sugar and not iced, almond horns, butter streusel danish, chocolate chip danish, sugar twists and long danish with a strip of raspberry and cream cheese.  There were also old fashioned doughnuts, cake doughnuts, raised doughnuts and too many coffeecakes to count.  And that was just the "sweet rolls" as we called them back then.  Sometimes we would go in the back of the bakery where Carl, the baker, would be making all of these delicious things.  He used a piping bag that was probably 16" long, and it was usually filled with fresh whipped cream.  He would ask me to open my mouth, and proceed to squirt a huge dollop of cream inside.   I couldn't even talk because my mouth was stuffed with cream.   Boy, was that a treat!  Today, in Seattle, there is nothing that really comes close, in my opinion, except for Madison Park Bakery in Madison Park and Hoffman's Bakery in Kirkland.  That's not to say that Bakery Nouveau doesn't get high marks, but a good many of their things start with puff pastry.  Madison Park has the best apricot almond bear claws...yes, apricot, and Hoffman's has the best almond bear claws.  But, back to Chicago.  I have taken my friend, Leslie, back to Chicago a few times, and on the last trip, we hit all three of my favorite bakeries.  Central Continental bakery in Mt. Prospect has been in business since 1922.  I think it's every Tuesday, all coffeecakes are 20% off.  Too bad I'm not down the street, but then again, that might be a good thing.  Cake Box bakery, located in Arlington Heights, opened in 1949, and I was getting chocolate chip coffeecakes there back in 1977 for many, many years.  Jarosch bakery, located in Elk Grove, and opened in 1959, had a totally different kind of chocolate chip coffeecake, and I would switch off between them and Cake Box.  My all time favorite chocolate chip coffeecake, though, is from Copenhagen bakery in Burlingame, California.  My girlfriend, Pam, and I, would get a coffeecake, get a table outside, and polish the whole thing off in one sitting.  I still get them, but only on rare occasions. I cut them up in pieces and put them in the freezer, but who am I kidding...they come out just as fast.  So, there you have it...don't want the long hours, don't want to get up at midnight to start baking...just want to "go" to the bakery and start eating...