Tag Archive | cooking

Just Desserts

Today I want to talk about something near and dear to my heart. Food. Not just any food. Dessert.  Sweet snacks. Sugary goodness. My absolute favorite part of the meal. Sometimes I eat dessert first. Sometimes I eat only dessert. I will actually go out just to get dessert or a sweet snack. It depends on if I have found the ideal restaurant that has what I consider a decent dessert. I have yet to find a place with the perfect dessert menu or a pastry chef with extraordinary talents. So for now, I settle for decent or satisfactory. And that is good enough. In case you didn’t know, I take my desserts seriously.

The Dutch gave us a Stroopwafel which is literally a syrup waffle. I know, right!? Yum! The French gave the world a Tarte Tatin, an amazing apple tart. With only four ingredients, it’s a hell of a lot easier to make than apple pie and is much yummier in my opinion. Ireland came up with Irish Whiskey Cake – I mean, really, how can you go wrong there? Do you know what they have in Sweden? Waffle day! Yes, it’s on the 25th of March, which is known as Våffeldagen. I bet if Leslie Knope ever had to live somewhere other than Pawnee, she’d move to Sweden. I certainly wouldn’t mind living in Sweden just to experience Waffle Day. But I digress. The Swedes came up with a snack called a Semla Bun which is a bun made out of wheat that’s flavored with cardamom and stuffed full of whipped cream (the real deal, none of that fake out of a plastic tub stuff) and almond paste. Don’t even get me started on Belgium. Their myriad of chocolates alone is amazing.  Italy created Marzipan, an absolutely decadent confection consisting primarily of sugar or honey and almond meal which can be sculpted into pretty much anything, although it’s often seen as fruit – and tastes delicious by the way. It doubles as cake decorations, so it’s not just lovely, it’s the hard-working multi-tasker of the dessert kingdom.

And what do we have in America as our claim to fame for sweets? Carnival food. Deep fried Oreos and Cheesecake on a stick. Crispy Crème hamburgers. I saw one of those travel shows with a guy who visits diners and restaurants across the country and in one place they were battering and deep-frying Cadbury Creme Eggs. As if the world needs that. Did you know that there actually exists in this country as a snack deep-fried butter? Now I ask you –  is such a thing really necessary? No, don’t answer that. I’m afraid to hear your answer.

I love sweets with the best of them, couldn’t give up my beloved confections on a bet nor would I want to. But I just can’t seem to work up an appetite for some of the choices I’m all too often being offered. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a dessert snob, I’m truly not. But come on people, we can do better!

Now, I’m not going to debate the obesity issues we have here in the States but what I will argue is the sheer lack of creativity in all of this sugary mess. I went to a Friendly’s restaurant many weeks ago with my daughter, and for those of you who may not be familiar, these restaurants are known for their family friendly atmosphere as well as their ice cream. Upon entry, we immediately ran into a sign (well, not literally mind you, we weren’t hurt or anything, it was just there so you couldn’t miss it) that advertised their special desserts for the summer. And one of the specials was Pop Tart ice cream sandwiches. It was a special dessert. Special. Dessert.

Now we’re not talking a fancy-shmancy restaurant here, I get it, I do, but still.  Are we that out of ideas for desserts and sweet snacks that we have to not only recycle the idea of ice cream sandwiches but also the idea behind Pop Tarts??  I see a similar phenomenon occurring in other, more upscale places as well. There’s simply no creativity anymore. Everything is deep-fried or else it’s Crème Brule.

Does no one take dessert seriously anymore? Or once they graduate culinary school, do the talented pastry chefs quickly skedaddle off to Europe where they might find themselves whipping up something more interesting than Cheesecake on a stick? If so, I wouldn’t blame them in the least.

Or perhaps…maybe…just maybe…is it possible these masters of pastries and sugary goodies are hiding out there somewhere and I just haven’t found them yet? And if so, can someone please, please tell me where, and slip me the password so I can get in?

 

Pop Tarts pass as a dessert special apparently

Pop Tarts pass as a dessert special apparently

 

stroopwafel_dutch_foods

Stroopwafel literally means syrup waffle…oh yes, count me in!

 

 

tarte tatin

Tarte Tatin – a beautiful presentation AND yummy!

 

irish whiskey cake

Irish whiskey and cake — how can you go wrong?

 

Semla Bun

a Semla Bun looks absolutely delish!

 

marzipan

lovely Marzipan, wish I had even half the talent it takes to create these

Kitchen Mishaps

I blame my mother. I’ve written before about this truly amazing yet probably possibly deceptive chef I have for a mother. Trying desperately to duplicate her mouth-watering recipes is what surely brought the demon spawn down (or is that up?) into my humble abode. I haven’t yet caught Mom out in her kitchen-y lies. But I will. Oh, you can be sure, I will. Eventually.

 

summoning a demon

A Little Help, Please?

I love scones. What’s not to love? They’re delicious. When done right, that is. According to Grocery Budget 101, “Scones are a simple, forgiving treat that even an inexperienced baker can throw together easily.” Well. That should make things easy. Any one of you should be able to toddle on over and just whip me up a batch or two or three of these to die for looking scones I found a recipe for the other day (Pumpkin Raisin Scones!) without a problem in the world.  Don’t look at me like that. I know my limitations and I simply don’t have enough Baileys to pull this recipe off.   But, I’ll leave the light on…AND preheat the oven!

Hey, the article even says, these delightful pastries are: “are perfect for those back to school mornings on the go.” (emphasis is mine)

I’m looking at you here M-O-T-H-E-R…your granddaughter needs sustenance. Of course don’t let the fact that her picky eating habits would never ever allow anything even slightly resembling a raisin much less something called a scone (gasp!) pass her lips even bother you for a moment. They are a back to school necessity, I tell you!

Oh!  And I bet they would go really well with that Irish potato soup recipe I emailed you last week. What? Do you think I just send you these things for no reason?? That’s what happens when you cook so well. Guess you should’ve thought of that all those years ago when you started spoiling everyone and we all got so used to it. Bet you wish you had burned more dinners now, don’t you?

And as for anyone else who wants to try their hand…I’m more than happy to be a guinea pig. Just send those scones on over to me!  I’ll get the Devonshire Cream!

 

CLICK FOR RECIPE!

CLICK FOR RECIPE!

God of Cookery

Recent meme I saw on Facebook: “I tried cooking something from scratch and ended up summoning a demon.” God, I wish I had thought up that statement because I swear that exact thought has crossed my mind on more than one occasion in recent years. I’ve come to find that cooking is not like riding a bike. You can definitely forget.

I used to be good. I have memories of when the things I pulled out of the oven were met with mmmmms instead of uggggggghs. This was another lifetime ago, though. A time before I had a family who wasn’t willing to try something new or eat something different. If it’s not a slab of beef, hot dogs, or chicken nuggets, they’re not having it. Any of it. And it has seriously destroyed my cooking game.

I used to come up with crazy concoctions on my own or take notes from gourmet cooking shows (to be put to good use at a later date). There I’d be in the kitchen, like a culinary wizard mixing up some great elixir. I’d toss in dashes of paprika, sprinkle in finely minced basil leaves, and have all the burners blasting under bubbling cauldrons or sizzling pans. Now, after years of inactivity in the creative department of the kitchen, I’ve lost the touch. I’ve tried dusting off the cooking bike and have fallen flat on my face numerous times. No matter how much care I put into it, everything I try (and I stress the word try) to make comes out mushy and burnt when it’s supposed to be firm and, well, not burnt. The spice levels are always out of whack. The consistency wavers. You name it and it’s off.

Thankfully no demons from hell have actually popped out due to one of the abominations I’ve created, although that’s probably not far off unless I get my chef chops back. Until then I’ll simply have to deal with the demons I already have in my house who are currently pounding the table for Kraft Mac n’ Cheese.

 

cooking from scratch pic

My Mother, the truly amazing yet possibly deceptive chef

My Mom is an amazing cook.  She always has been.  Back in the day, she cooked West Virginia style which meant lots of heavenly home-made gravy, melt-in-your-mouth scratch biscuits and some of the best fried chicken you’d ever stick a fork into.  Although seriously, who uses a fork with fried chicken?  Dinner was always an occasion in my house growing up although I didn’t appreciate it nearly as much then as I do now. Like my Grandmother before her, my Mom’s cooking is southern perfection.

Sadly, times change.  Several years ago my Mom started cooking a bit healthier, but she still retained her original Top Chef skills. I do feel sorry sometimes for my Dad though – he sure does like his food…it’s a true, deep down enjoyment with him. A soulful experience if you will. And now he’s relegated to healthy lifestyle inspiring menu items, which we all know what that means.  Luckily he has my Mom to put her touch on what could otherwise be some pretty boring and unappetizing dishes.

Pretty much everything that came out of my mother’s kitchen was “from scratch.”  It’s only in very recent years that she has stooped to using things like instant rice or canned “cream” soups as a base…but that’s about as far as she’s willing to go with these newfangled food ideas. She tried to pass down her cooking techniques to me and did in fact teach me some nifty little tricks in the kitchen. I can create succulent dishes with the best of them, thanks to her.  BUT…and maybe it’s nostalgia or maybe it’s idolatry … BUT I swear no matter how hard I try I can never get anything I cook to taste as good as my Mom makes it.

It’s not for lack of trying. In fact, I might be trying too hard! I follow her instructions obsessively, but no matter how disciplined I am I can never get the fried chicken or potato soup to reach that “Mom” level of yumminess. I’ve begun to think that it’s my strict adherence to the rules that has kept me from achieving those upper echelons of cooking mastery.

My Mom gives me these recipes that I follow to a T but I know for a fact that even she doesn’t follow them that closely. She’s flat out told me so. She treats her recipes more as a useful list of suggestions rather than a set of requirements to check off. The end result is that every time she cooks something it’s a tiny bit different from the last time. Perhaps there’s a bit more pepper or a bit less salt or tarragon instead of thyme (because she was out of thyme and another seasoning that starts with the letter “T” is probably just as good). Is this the reason her concoctions always taste so good? Are the small changes she introduces with each new iteration of a recipe what keep my taste buds titillated?

That all sounds reasonable, but I’ll confess to thinking a bit irrationally at times and have begun to seriously wonder if she leaves out an ingredient on purpose. Is she intentionally switching up the baking time because she knows three minutes more or less is going to alter the taste just the little bit that she needs? You may be thinking, “Well, maybe you’re just a mediocre chef.” Ridiculous. I’ve literally stood next to my mother and watched her every move when she’s cooking and I still can’t duplicate what I watched her make with my own eyes.

There’s some sort of deception involved here and I’m going to figure it out. Until then, I’m going to need my mother to live as long as it takes for me to be as good of a cook as her. She simply cannot die. Period. Not just because I’d lose my best friend in the world, but because I really need her fried chicken.

 

My Parents

My Parents