Saturday, January 30, 2010

DB's Challenge - Nanaimo Bars

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and

I did not have very much luck with this recipe. Well, the recipe was fine. I just lost my ability to read or something and had to make the recipe twice. One recipe that was waaaay off and strange (although everyone at work ate it up and said it was sinful) and one recipe where I followed the recipe (whoa! what an idea!).

When I followed the recipe the bars turned out perfectly and were delicious.

The mistake bars were good too, but they were really messy to eat.

Let me explain about my mistake. Like I said, I didn't read the recipe. I skimmed the recipe and read something about pudding. So when I was at work, it was 2 days to the post deadline and a huge blizzard blew into town, shutting down all the roads, I panicked!
I needed to make the bars and I couldn't get to the store to buy a package of pudding mix.
What to do?
Go to my Mom and ask her.
How do you make pudding at home?
She whipped up a batch of vanilla pudding for me.
Fast forward to me making the bars.
The recipe called for 2 Tablespoons of dry pudding powder.
I put in 2 cups of pudding!
It wasn't even close to the recipe.
(insert me rolling eyes at myself)
Alls well that ends well though.
I made the bars again....2 days past the deadline.
Sorry Daring Baker's!
And the bars are very yummy - rich,but tasty.
I ate one for breakfast.
Part of the challenge was to make our own graham crackers to use in the nanaimo bars crust.
Like I said before - biggest blizzard ever- and I couldn't get to the store to buy the gluten free ingredients.
True, I could have planned better and bought the ingredients ahead of time, but I was distracted with my planning for the Potato Dinner Party.
So, I didn't have any whole wheat flour.
I ground up some oatmeal and made oatmeal flour.

Oatmeal flour.

The rest of the ingredients.
I decided to make chocolate graham crackers.

Graham cracker dough mixed up.

Graham crackers rolled out.
It is a very soft and tender dough.
Oh yeah, maybe that's because I used pastry flour and oatmeal flour.
Again - big storm and empty cupboards.

Graham crackers baking.

I cut the crackers after they came out of the oven.
And then I let them sit out to dry.
They broke apart (fell apart) very easily.

Nanaimo bar crust ready to mix up.
Now stop reading: 'Cause I'm about to show you my mistake recipe.

This is all the lovely pudding my Mom made for me with lots of powdered sugar.

Pudding filling poured on top of the crust.

Lots of layers.

Chocolate on top.

And this is what it should look like!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Romancing the Potato Dinner Party

I had a dinner party on Saturday for some friends.
The theme was potatoes.
In the spirit of Antoine-Augustin Parmentier I held a dinner party with potatoes in every course - even dessert!
I'm not posting all the recipes in this post, but to see the recipes and more pictures of each dish, click on the name of the course below.


A bit more about Parmentier.
In the 1700's the French believed that potatoes were poisonous.
Parmentier was a prisoner of war in Germany, were potatoes were eaten. In fact, the king of Germany threatened to cut off the noses of peasants if they didn't plant potatoes.
When Parmentier returned to France he tried to encourage potato eating. He used publicity stunts such as hosting dinner parties where potatoes featured prominently. He also planted potatoes and then posted guards around the garden to protect the "valuable jewels" aka potatoes. Then he instructed the guards to accept all bribes and leave the garden unattended at night, so the populace could steal the potatoes.

I made place mats to protect my silk tablecloth.
I was saving this tablecloth for a very special occasion and the place mats really did their job!
There wasn't a spot on the tablecloth after dinner.
To make them I used thick card stock, each piece was 12inX12in.
I used a paper punch to add a decorative border.

My Dad helped me pull the table legs out.
Then he fell asleep underneath the table!

Me waiting for the charon sauce to cook down.
It took forever.

The start of my flower arrangement.

Almost done.

Completed flower arrangement.
Can you see all the butterflies?
I used flame less candles underneath tulle.

Completed set table.
I put a card with facts about potatoes at each place with the menu.
Facts like: The average American eats 137.9 potatoes every year.

This is my awesome friend Esmeralda.
She helped me serve - I could NOT have done it without her!
Thank you soooo much Esme!

My friends on one side of the table.

And my friends on the other side of the table.
(Including my Mom and Dad!)

The table all together.
(Sorry Dad, you got stuck in the middle!)

Me being silly with the salad.

Chocolate bird's nests with mint ice cream.

Leaning tower salad.

Soup and potato cut outs.

Rosemary foccacia.

Sweet potato gnocchi.

Crab cakes.

Charon sauce.

Bianca pizza.
Confessions and notes:
The only thing I forgot to serve were the limes wedges I cut up to serve with the crab cakes. The weather did NOT cooperate with me. We had unseasonably high temps (30F), slush, rain, snow and ice. I was happy almost everyone was able to come to the party. I shouldn't have put so much chocolate on the bird's nests - they were a *little* hard.
I could not have done it without the help of my Mom (who kept calling herself John - see here to understand the joke). Thank you so much for letting me use your house for the party!
And for putting up with me!
Also, Thank You to Esmeralda for your super, super help! You were great!
I had a ton of fun and would love to do it again.
It was stressful (tiny bit) and time consuming, but if my friends had a nice time then, it was totally one-hundred percent worth it!

Bouillon d’oignon with Potato Cutouts

Bouillon d'oignon or onion broth. This was so delicious!
There really isn't a recipe for this.
I think it will turn out differently every time I make it, but here is how I made it this time.
First I took onions (from my garden).

Sliced the tops off of them and sliced them into flowers.
I didn't cut all the way through the root ends.
Then I placed the onions on a well greased cookie sheet and broiled the onions until they were charred on top.

Then I roasted the onions at 450F degrees, until the onions were soft and caramelized.

Then I popped the whole shebang into the food processor and whizzed the onions up.
Then I put the onions, 3 1/2 quarts water, 1 large whole carrot, 1 stick of celery, 2 bay leaves, some smoke flavor, some vegetarian "beef" bullion, a pkg of Knorr's veg. soup mix, thyme and some garlic puree.
I boiled it all gently for an hour.
Then I used a cheese cloth to strain all of the onion, ect. out of the broth.

The broth was dark and rich.

To make the potato cutouts: Take raw potato and slice it 1/2 inch thick.
With a small cookie cutter cut out shapes.
Toss with olive oil, salt, paprika and pepper.
Bake at 450F degrees for 10 mins until puffy.
Place on top of hot soup and serve.

Leaning Tower Salad

Of all the things on my menu, this item raised the most questions.
They are very simple to make, but a bit time intensive.
I think it took me an hour to make all of the salads.
Thank goodness for food processors!

I first put 2 tsp. of zesty vinaigrette in the bottom of each glass.
Zesty vinaigrette is made by a friend of mine - Wishbone.
Then I added layers of finely chopped vegetables.
From the bottom up:
Tomato, celery, potato salad, hard boiled eggs, broccoli, carrots, red cabbage, feta cheese, red and orange peppers.

I served the salads with the crabcakes and charon sauce.

Rosemary Focaccia

Rosemary Foccacia
Dough: 1 1/3 cups lightly packed cooked potato
1 1/2 tsp rapid rise yeast
31/2 cups flour
1 cup warm water
2 Tbs olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
Toppings: 2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs fresh rosemary
1/4 tsp coarse sea salt or kosher salt
(make sure you use coarse salt - reg. salt will melt into your dough-I speak from experience - trust me, it's weird tasting - use coarse salt)

It doesn't look like much, but this is the best foccacia bread ever. Actually, this is the only foccacia bread I've ever made. If you have the best recipe, why try another?
I've been making this for years, probably since I was 12. It's very popular at parties.


In a large bowl mix together yeast, 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup lukewarm water. Set aside until bubbly, about 20 mins. Add remaining dough ingredients, including potato. Mix until dough is smooth and elastic-about 5 mins.


Transfer dough to lightly oiled bowl and cover. Allow to rise until doubled in size - about 1 hour.


With wet hands (to prevent sticking) press dough into well oiled jelly roll pan. I like the crispy edge pieces best, so I make 2 10x6 rectangles in the pan. Cover and let rise for 1 hour, until puffy.


Preheat oven to 423F degrees. With wet fingers gently press dimples into dough. The dimples hold the delicious toppings.


Drizzle with olive oil - more is better. Sprinkle with salt and rosemary.


Bake for 23-25 mins. Until crispy and golden brown.