French Fridays with Dorie – Cod and Spinach Roulade

I soooo wanted to be on board with these.  I could totally picture the concept.  I even did a bang up job of convincing my husband to help me with the prep, all the while giving a pep talk to him (and me in my head) about how great these were gonna be.

Alas, friends, it was not meant to be and I must admit I was quite childish about the results. Bob was a trouper and stuck with me through the cooking of the sauce, the chopping of the spinach and EVEN the skin removing of the fish (don’t ask, oddly enough in these backwoods the ONLY fish I could find was perch and it had the skin on).  I ACTUALLY  had preserved lemon as a direct result of my Meyer lemon obsession in January.  It is also the only photo I have for this blog.  The carnage was too gruesome to capture for posterity.  Here is the photo of my preserved lemons using a recipe from the book Jam On:  The Craft of Canning Fruit by Laena McCarthy (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/jam-on-laena-mccarthy/1110915038?ean=9780670026173).  Awesome book, I will be using it again when and if spring shows its face here in good old Wisconsin.

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Here is what happened.  We made them earlier in the day as the recipe said we could.  By the time it was dinner, a GREAT deal of the liquid had seeped out onto the plate in the fridge.  I proceeded with the steaming anyway.  After 25 damn minutes, they still weren’t done and I was completely freaked out by eating something wrapped in plastic that had been not only sitting in plastic all day but was now being cooked in this plastic and IT WASN’T WORKING!!!!

Cut to me throwing the whole thing out and breaking a dish in the process ( so childish).  We ate toasted cheese with ham and Granny Smith apple.  Bob and Eli were so kind to me later after I had cooled down.  They both gave me a hug and assured me I was still an excellent cook.

Plastic and pureed fish just don’t jive………………

Tuesdays with Dorie – Madeleines

Trying to jump back in with this group as well as with my French Fridays group, so here I am!!  The potato loaves from earlier this month were a huge hit at our house, just never got the opportunity to blog that whole gig.  Here is a lovely photo of them.  One issue/question – did anyone else notice that theirs didn’t rise a whole lot?  I mean, I know the recipe said they wouldn’t but the finished product still seemed a bit dense.

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Anyhoo, this week’s recipe was Madeleines.  Personally I wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about, I am not a big fan of sweets, give me glass of wine and a piece of cheese any day but Miss Hannah (thinking ahead to the Birthday party in June) loves this kind of stuff so let’s give it a whirl.  I stopped in at Bekah Kate’s for the pan (thanks Maggie).  How pretty!!  Maybe this will be a sweet I can get on board with, I do love a pretty dish/baking thingy….

The kitchen is a mess already as Eli has decided to paint Grandma Mary a picture for her Birthday which is Saturday (she’ll be 39 as I have already laid claims on the age 29).  Here is a pic of my Eli hard at work.

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Isn’t he just delicious?  Too much!

I read over some of the skuttle on the site and decided to go with Dorie’s French Fridays version. I have had a bit of bad luck with Baking with Julia and I know that Dorie worked on that book as well but sometimes  I find the recipes lacking in details.  Other times they are overloaded with dos and don’ts.  Especially worrisome to me was the “discussion” over whether the batter should be chilled before baking or not.  Again, I deferred to French Fridays p. 409  – Bonne Idee – Classic Madeleines.  Chill the batter in the pan, people, chill it.  Don’t forget to butter and flour the mold first either.  The classic madeleine recipe called for lemon zest and the rest of the usual suspects (i.e. butter and eggs, guess the pants won’t be fitting any better this week either).

In the fridge for three hours or so, then pop them in the oven  and voila!  They were perfect!  So good in fact that I whipped up a second batch today for the Reach Out and Read Luncheon I hosted. We are trying to get this pretty amazing project off the ground here in Reedsburg.  The ladies at the luncheon concurred, perfection!! And so, so cute.

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French Fridays with Dorie – Financiers

It’s been a really busy week here at the Feller household; first soccer practice, science fair project due, trying to get the golf course up and running (not happening – our weather stinks), dressing up as Piggy from the Piggy and Elephant series by Mo Willems for a library/school event…… yep, you read that correctly.  To prove that I am not making this up, here is a picture of me. For the record, I was smiling.  A big thank you to my partner in crime Jodie for being Elephant, the poor thing had to turn sideways to fit through the doorway.

 

 

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Hannah and I took advantage of a quiet weekend to make these yummy financiers last Sunday.  I love to read the back story on recipes from Dorie.  I always feel so European and it fills my void of not living there anymore.   We decided to make the chocolate version as chocolate always trumps.  Obviously we don’t own a financier mold but we did take the time to google it so we knew what we were missing.  Super cute but totally unnecessary.  Purchasing almond flour also seemed superfluous so we wizzed some up in the food processor.

Only one problem when we were making the financiers, the cream boiled over.  Why do I consistently walk away from dairy products that need to boil rapidly?  Do I think it won’t boil over like it does EVERY SINGLE TIME???!  Clean up and retry, second time’s the charm.

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Hannah has really become quite the little baker at our house.  She loves to try something new.  In fact, her science fair project topic investigated the best pan to bake chocolate chip cookies on.  She and her buddy Ali did a great job.  Here is a photo of them with their results at the fair.

 

 

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Our results with the financiers were excellent as well.  We chose to serve them with Herkner’s amazing cherry topping made in the good old Midwest and available at Blue Heron, a great little store owned by friends of ours, Kay and Larry Schroeder.   Here is the link to their site:  http://www.blueheronstore.com/  Easy as pie and delicious too!! We may even make these for Hannah’s Birthday, they rocked!

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Pierre Herme’s Olive Sables

Delish, my friends, delish!  What’s not to love about an olive, right? These little melt in your mouth crackers/cookies did not disappoint.   I must admit I was a bit taken aback when I saw powdered sugar with olives but, what the heck? Trust Dorie, right?   I had tried a sable  ( Sable Breton Cookies ) on her advice before, way back when we made olive oil ice cream and she suggested we make these yummy  goodies on page 464  to go along with the creaminess of the ice cream.  They lived up to their hype as well.

This sable was simple to mix up, the dough was “dry” as described in the recipe but after chilling for a couple of hours, it cut well and baked up perfectly. The only issue I have with any of these “shaping” cookies/crackers is that I can’t shape.  There it is, out there for the whole world to judge.  I have never been able to shape, I can remember feeling badly about this in art class when we were instructed to roll out little snakes and then make them into a pinch pot.  Mrs. Riepe made it look so EASY and then Anne Landfield ( whose father WAS an artist) did exactly the same thing and I ended up making a mess.  Ugh!!  Funny what we remember.  Anyhoo, mine aren’t exactly cracker shaped.  Whatever.

Cookie with a savory element or cracker with a bit of sweet?  You decide.  I chose to showcase them with some marinated (olive oil, lemon zest and red pepper flakes) olives.  They served as an appetizer last Saturday night when we were invited over to some family friends’ house for a Birthday celebration.  Perfect, they were nibbled up in no time!

 

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FFWD – lemon – steamed spinach

Loved this dish as did the rest of the family (except for Hannah, who hates cooked spinach)!  I didn’t bother to REALLY steam it, I just dumped it into a pan and let the heat do the rest.  The addition of lemon truly made this divine, I always use garlic with my spinach. I served it with a shaved asparagus pizza from The Smitten Kitchen cookbook, which I am completely obsessed with at the moment.

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The real post is below and I think it illustrates nicely my attempt at leaving Perfection behind.  See, I misread WHICH recipe to cook for today and accidentally made next month’s!! Ha, who cares!? We loved them both and I enjoyed myself either way.

FFWD – Swiss Chard Pancakes ( sort of)

I have been MIA for a long time, longer than I care to admit.  A lot of things got in the way, school, job, family but mostly my obsession with doing everything perfectly.  I kept thinking I would get back to this blogging and cooking thing as soon as _____________ (fill in the blank).  In the last few months I have started to question the tapes playing in my head from a whole new angle.  It’s time to start living, people.  What the hell am I waiting for?

Yesterday this quote came across my Facebook page:

I choose to see this as a sign that I am on the right path.  Here I am blogging again because I WANT TO and because I LIKE TO and that is it folks.

Soapbox in the closet…….this recipe looked really yummy and reminded me of two other pancake type things; one was a sweet pancake generally made with apples that I used to eat in Germany called Apfel Pfannkuchen.  I know that Dorie’s is a savory dish but her description of her friend Didier and his love of his mom’s Frenchy pancakes  immediately brought up memories of  Pfannkuchen and how Omi used to make them in place of the traditional open-faced sandwich dinner.  The other recipe that jumped back into my mind was one I picked up at a cooking class and have since lost along the way.  They were teeny, savory pancakes made with corn and hot sauce.  They were topped with guacamole and shrimp and were totally divine.  Needless to say I was on board with this new pancake.

No swiss chard to be found and my Perfectionism started to nudge me from the corner.  “See! This is why we don’t DO this anymore, you can never execute it the way it SHOULD  be done.  Just give up.”  A swift kick to the nether region of said Perfectionism and I simply improvised and used spinach.  No big deal.  Have another glass of wine.

Here is what the batter looked like in the blender:

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You’ll notice I am a little less Amish with the new IPhone and Instagram and all.  Thank my children, I had little to do with it.

We, I mean Bob, fried them up in Granny’s cast iron skillet.  They looked so yummy!!

I served them with a salad as suggested.  Ham, swiss cheese, English cucumber and dill along with spinach and a vinagrette made with real French Dijon (there is ABSOLUTELY NO substitute).  Bob even whipped up a dipping sauce of greek yoghurt and our lovely dijon.

The verdict, pretty darn great!!  This is a keeper! I can hardly wait until the fall when we actually have swiss chard from our CSA.

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Volunteer Coordinator Article

Did any of you happen to be at Pineview Elementary on Monday night,  March 4th?  If so, then you saw the same “awesomeness” that I observed.  Hundreds of students and parents having a great time all in the name of reading.  RIFF (Reading is Family Fun) Night takes place in Reedsburg once a year, usually in conjunction with Read Across America Week.  This week celebrates reading and all the fun associated with it as we honor good old Dr. Suess on his birthday.

   It’s been a couple of years since I attended RIFF Night.  This year I decided to help organize the South School room along with other PTO members.  What a blast! It was so nice to connect with other students and parents, see all the fun activities other schools and organizations thought up and listen to students read.

    What does this have to do with volunteering?  Just about everything.  While this night is sponsored by the district and there are countless business hours put in by our staff at Pineview and the other schools, it is the volunteers who really pull this one off.  I mean, really, why leave the comfort of your house on a Monday night when it is GOING TO SNOW AGAIN?

    Hundreds of kids and parents out and about all in the name of reading.  Amazing!  Even more amazing were the PTOs and other volunteers who helped pull this night off.  A silent auction was held in the cafeteria to raise money for each school’s PTO.  This was standing room only and a boatload of cash is now on it’s way to help fund great things in our grade schools.

    Let’s not forget about the community volunteers who stepped up for our students as well.  Bingo with police officers, face painting with high school students, making bookmarks for an orphanage in South Africa and a relay race were only a few of the wonderful activities on hand that evening.   Our teachers were there as well, keeping things moving in the reading rooms and directing participants in the right direction.

    There is a lot of negative press concerning education swirling around at the moment.  It is too easy to remain stuck in our position of how we think schools SHOULD be run and what is wrong with students, staff and education in general.  A night like RIFF Night challenges us to look at these opinions; it begs us to look at the positive.  As my dad always says, “Are you part of the problem or part of the solution?”    Be part of the solution – VOLUNTEER!!

 

Peach Melba FFWD

Well, I’m back.  I KNOW that you noticed  I was missing all summer long and that you are very happy I am back again.  I know I am.  Time for myself (aka putzing in the kitchen) was shoved to the back burner for a while.  Luckily it was replaced with afternoons at the pool, badminton and bean bag games in the backyard, a bedroom makeover and a visit from out entire family complete with an Olympics (it ended in a legitimate tie).  Don’t believe me?  Check out the photos!

Family Olympics!

My Dad’s project while he was visiting and yes, he made this himself!

How is it possible that our Hannah turned 13 this summer?

Enough with the shameless bragging and on to the recipe for this week.  The history on this yummy dessert fascinated me as I had no idea how it had gotten it’s name.  I also really wanted to give this one a whirl as I had admired (read drool) the photo earlier when our assignment was Olive Oil Ice Cream.

Poaching the peaches was simple enough but I admit I was concerned that they wouldn’t be sweet enough so I added more sugar and then had to compensate with lemon juice when I tasted the syrup later.  It just so happened that there was a bottle of creme de cassis lurking the basement, leftover from my Holiday obsession with Kir Royal cocktails (thank you Joyce and Brigitta).  I must admit that the syrup went from a bit too sweet to boozy after the addition of, well, the booze.  Raspberries in the blender,  homemade whip cream, yum, but I didn’t have it in me to get out the ice cream maker so purchased vanilla ice cream it is.

As I has been MIA most of the summer, I decided to make up for a bit of lost time by making the Cafe – Style Grated Carrot Salad from last week AND the Minted Zucchini Tagliatelle with Cucumbers and Lemon.  Overachiever?  Oh, you’ve met me.  No, not at all.  It just so happens that I am hosting our book club dinner this month and thought it would be fun to force others to ingest these experiments.  I served the salads along side a leek and bacon frittata and peach melba was on the docket for dessert.  The results?  Divine, if I do say so myself!  The carrot salad was refreshing.  I followed Dorie’s advice and tossed it all together a few minutes before serving.  Golden raisins and black walnuts added a hint of sweet and some crunch.  The zucchini salad was also a huge hit.  I improvised with the oil some and I know that really having pistachio oil would have made all the difference but olive oil and some shelled pistachios added at the last moment was pretty darn yummy too.

The peach melba was the true hit of evening!  It was sweet and tart and grown up all at the same time, even if I did serve it in kiddie cups.  None of us had ever had a true peach melba or even had a clue who Ms. Melba was.

Talk turned to the cookbook itself for a while and it made me fall in love with it all over again.  What a fabulous night!  Why we even had a bit of time to talk about our book , March by Geraldine Brooks.

Books and Bites book club, sometimes we even talk about the book!

Back in the saddle people and ready for more……….

FFWD Olive Oil Ice Cream

Where has this ice cream been all my life?  Honestly, I don’t need to finish this blog, the opening line says it all.  Divine, heavenly, simply amazing!

In anticipation of this week’s assignment, I went to my favorite local foodie/cooking store and purchased “fruity” olive oil (thanks, Maggie).  I had most of the other ingredients on hand because I actually own an ice cream machine and have for years.  In fact, we already made rhubarb ice cream this season.  The machine came compliments of my mom who used to work at the Home Store at Macy’s and was seriously addicted to a kitchen gadget but could only pull the trigger if she knew she was buying it for someone who would “use it” – one of her very famous phrases.

As in, “Well, are you going to USE it?”

I also own a fabulous ice cream cook book entitled The Ultimate Ice Cream Book by Bruce Weinstein, also from my mom.  It has the most amazing recipes and adaptations and has been a staple in our house for many years (see mom, I am USING it).  Oddly enough, this book doesn’t even mention such a heavenly concoction as olive oil ice cream.

One of the things I love most about making ice cream is that this really great surprise for dessert is already waiting in your fridge (or freezer in this case) and people are totally amazed that you made it yourself.  So easy and done ahead of time.  Hannah and I also made the decision to bake up some sable breton cookies that were suggested in the sidebar and wow!  I will be making these again, they were fab!  I had tried Martha’s shortbread cookie many times but always found them dry and hard to work with.

Quite the opposite here!

A major hit at the Feller house!

 I served it with a new baked ziti dish I pulled off of Pinterest, yum.

Can’t wait until next week.

Tuesdays with Dorie Oasis Naan

It’s been a while since I posted for Tuesdays.  I had great intentions of making the pecan sticky buns and my brioche dough was coming along nicely but something terrible happened when I left it in the fridge for two days.  Sigh.  Oasis Naan gives me a chance to jump back on that horse and get riding.

Bread making, especially by hand, is truly one of life’s pleasures.  I first learned how to make bread as a foreign exchange student living in Germany.  My host family signed me up at the local night school to learn to make bread in the hopes that my German would improve.  It did but my bread making skills won out.  I have loved it ever since.

This recipe was easy enough, and the smell of it rising was divine.  I used the kneading step as my weight lifting for the day (note the workout wear).

Maneuvering the breads on and off the baking stone was a bit tough but after I figured out to flour the other sheet I was using more then the sliding went off without a hitch.

I bribed a friend to take Eli to a fishing clinic and Hannah was off with a buddy so I made this one in peace and quiet.  They turned out great and I used them as currency for the bribe so not all that bread stayed in the house.  Fun recipe!

French Fridays with Dorie – Lentil, Lemon and Tuna salad

Let’s start this one off with a bang – this recipe was more than amazing!!  It was a huge success at the Feller household and we will most certainly be making this again and again this summer.  Most likely for American Players Theater…delicious Shakespeare under the stars with good friends and family, truly this dish would be perfect.

I must say I had a negative attitude when I first read this.  I just get so darned mad when I see cool ingredients and know full well that none of them are available here in the Boonies.  Whatever, get over yourself Heidi.  When we first moved here a million years ago, I joined a book club (not the one I am part of now, which is so cool).  There was a “lady” in this book club who actually had the audacity to complain about the price of the book.  Naturally, I was outraged and unleashed my fury on my husband, explaining to him (I can be QUITE nauseating at times), “You know, I received a Fullbright!”  To which he tersely replied, “Yes, but you live HERE now.”  Yet another reason why I am still married to this saint, he keeps me humble.

So, now I am over myself about no true French lentils and have moved on from the remote possibility of finding preserved lemons.  I am drawing on the creative energy and the  adventurous spirit of fellow Doriens and convince myself I can do this without all the fancy fluff (still secretly I would take that jar of lemons, I just know it would change my life).  I used my green lentils and followed the recipe with the broth and carrot and such.  Guess what?  They were spectacular!

French Lentils

While they were simmering away, I made the tapenade, also following Dorie’s instructions and HOLY COW!  Who knew homemade tapenade could be soooooo good?  In years past I had used a Moosewood version and it always seemed to be missing a little something, something.  Now I know what it was, anchovy!  Duh!  So happy that the leftover spread is sitting in my fridge, the kids have enjoyed it as an after school snack (I am well aware of the monsters we are creating by serving them such deliciousness).

tapenade, pure heaven

Time to assemble and serve.  I grated lemon zest and squeezed the juice on top in lieu of the holy grail preserved lemon.  It was an “ok”  stand in but I am ordering a jar of the real deal from Amazon in the very near future. Served on a bed of organic CSA lettuce and accompanied by roasted carrots with honey and rosemary. The results?  Fantastic!  Not a morsel left.  Welcome summer, you taste divine!