Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Dining with the Bloggers - September 28th

My first impression of Brownie Points was that it was a smart blog with a great look. Well, no wonder... Jocelyn (aka McAuliflower) is a scientist/artist from Eugene, Oregon, and it is apparent that she brings the sensibilities of both her callings to her food blog.

About a month ago I was excited to find that McAuliflower had posted a recipe for Bagel Dogs, an almost forgotten treat that I frequently enjoyed for lunch some years back. In case you're not familiar with this delicacy, it is a Hebrew National hotdog encased in a bagel. I believe I first came across bagel dogs in a deli or sandwich shop, but they were also available in the grocery store. I haven't seen them in ages.

This was my first experience making bagels, but I found McAuliflower's instructions easy to follow and the whole process relatively simple. The yeast dough is prepared quickly and easily in the food processor (another first for me) and rests for a mere five minutes before shaping - no rise time is needed. I had some trouble shaping the dough into a long rope, so even though flattening the "snake" with a rolling pin was no trouble, I wound up with irregularly shaped strips. No matter - the dough was forgiving and once baked, the bagel dogs were beautiful.

I followed McAuliflower's suggestions of adding cooked onion to the dough and sprinkling the tops with salt and dried garlic bits, so these bagel dogs had lots of flavor. I may have been a little overzealous with the onions, as the dough was still quite moist after baking. Not that I'm complaining - these were really and truly delicious. I had such a hard time limiting myself to just one. I reheated one for dinner Tuesday evening (wrapped in foil and then heated in the oven at 350F for 20-25 minutes) and it was just as good the second time around.

I am so happy to have been reunited with this old favorite - thanks McAuliflower!

Be sure to stop by Zarah's to see what she's cooked up for us!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Mondays with Maida - Cream-Cheese Brownies

Page 76 in the old book / page 124 in the new book

I've never been fond of cheesecake, so I approached these brownies with some suspicion. I know I should give cheesecake another chance, and indeed the cream cheese mixture in these brownies was quite nice. Overall, though, I was disappointed with the brownies - mostly because of their texture.

In a later recipe Maida cautions against overbeating the eggs, because that creates a cakelike texture. Yet with this recipe you are instructed to beat the egg and sugar mixture for 3 to 4 minutes on high speed. My guess is that the intention is to make the brownie part of the cookie more similar in texture to the cream cheese portion of the cookie. I could have been happy with a cakey inside if there had at least been a little crunch on the outside. But in spite of that beautiful, glossy exterior, there was no crunch whatsoever.

I also thought that the brownies weren't especially chocolatey, but with 4 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate (I used 51% Callebaut semi-sweet) for a 9-inch pan of brownies, I think it was the texture rather than an insufficient amount of chocolate that got in the way of my chocolate experience.

The ratings were a mixed bag again this week...

Suzanne: "What could be better? Cream cheese, chocolate brownie and walnuts. The brownie was cake-like and the cream cheese was moist. Great brownie! Rating - 5"

Denny: "Very very good. Not too chewy maybe needed a little more cream cheese. Rating - 4.8"

Laura: "Moist and tasty, but I guess I don't really prefer cream cheese in with my brownies. I'm more of an 'All Chocolate Brownie' gal. Rating - 3.0"

Phil: "These attractive, marbled morsels underscore the fact that good looks only get you so far. While still flavorful, the cream cheese tended to crowd out much of the rich chocolate and nut flavors so prominent among the heavyweights in this field. Rating - 3.4"

Overall rating by the panel - 4.1

Next week - Fudge Brownies

Nutrition Facts

Sunday, September 25, 2005

23rd Post Meme

OK, this one's easy - all I've got to do is count. I was tagged by AG at Grab Your Fork. The instructions are to go into your archives, find your 23rd post, and then find the 5th sentence and post it again.

I can do that. My 23rd post was A Bowlful of Summer and had an unrecipe - mix up some tomatoes, roasted corn and basil. The fifth sentence is sort of telling:

I thought about roasting it – which I’ve never done before – but really didn’t feel like firing up the grill.

I'm so lazy.

By the way, I think I found the origin of this meme. It apparently split off from a Page 23 meme over a year ago. Interestingly, there is what must be a related meme currently making the rounds which instructs you to go to page 123 of a nearby book.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Blog Party 2 - Tiki Tenders with Pineapple Salsa and Asti Tropical Punch

Hey, how are you? Great party, huh? Stephanie really did a nice job. Lots of really great food too. Don't bother with those Tiki Tenders though - they're really blah. The salsa's tasty, but I'd grab some of those tortilla chips over there and dunk them in instead of the tenders. That Asti stuff is nice too, in a bubbly-baby-shower-punch sort of a way. Ohhh, gotta run... looks like some more goodies just arrived, oooh and cake...

I stopped by Stephanie's blog last night with the intention of sending her an apology for not participating in her latest blog party. It had been just a little too busy for me this past week and I never got around to figuring out (let alone cooking) something to go with her Tiki theme. Then I saw that she had extended the deadline to Friday night - a reprieve! I started trying to come up with some ideas, but they didn't start taking shape until today and it wasn't until I was in the grocery store this evening that it finally came together. I sort of had pineapple on the brain... if I'd been able to find pineapple sherbert or sorbet, my punch would have taken a different turn. As luck would have it, though, I found neither and stumbled upon some frozen fruit bars at Whole Foods that worked perfectly. My idea for the chicken tenders didn't really pan out, but maybe some marinated and grilled chicken would be nice with the salsa. I didn't measure anything this time around, but I can tell you what I did...

Pineapple Salsa

Finely dice some fresh pineapple, sweet red pepper, and sweet onion in amounts to your liking. Mince some garlic and cilantro and then throw in some black beans too. (I had planned to add some jalapeno pepper, but it apparently never made it into my grocery bag.) Squeeze in some lime juice and add a little hot sauce and then stir it all up and let it sit while you prepare the chicken.

Tiki Tenders

Honestly, I wouldn't recommend you make these, but just in case you're curious what I did... I whizzed up a handful of macadamia nuts in the jar attachment on my stick blender and then mixed them with a similar amount of coconut powder. I dunked each tender in some seasoned flour, then in beaten egg, and then in the macadamia nut/coconut mixture and fried them in some canola oil (just enough to form a thin layer on the bottom of the pan) for a few minutes on each side. Oh so bland.

Asti Tropical Punch

My stemmed glasses are quite small so one fruit bar made about two drinks, but I'd recommend larger glasses and using one fruit bar per serving. The fruit bars that I used were very good - they're 365 Brand Caribbean Mix Frozen Fruit Bars and they have strawberries, pineapple, mango, passion fruit, and coconut in them. Leave the fruit bars in the refrigerator to soften up slightly so you can easily remove the sticks. Take them for a spin in the blender until they're nicely mushed up and then add a little Asti (or another light, fruity, sparkling wine) and pulse a few more times. Pour some of this into a glass and then top with some more bubbly and a little lime zest.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Dining with the Bloggers - September 21st

There are a couple of people from my food blog circle of friends of which I can say, "I knew them when..." One is Alice - we first "met" on the Cooking Light BB. The other is Nupur - I was honored to host her first post, an entry for IMBB 11, back in January. Her post, which explains how to sprout lentils and then shares a recipe for Pan-fried Sprouted Lentils, is to this day one of the most popular on my blog.

Shortly after that IMBB, Nupur went on to start her own blog - One Hot Stove. Nupur, who lives in New York City, has a variety of recipes on her blog, from tempting baked goods, to traditional Indian fare, to her own take on some classics using unexpected ingredients. Recently she began a series of posts on foods from the Indian state that she calls home, Maharashtra. The series is titled "The A-Z of Marathi Food" and will present a new recipe each time beginning with the letter A and progressing to Z. First was "A is for Amti", then "B is for Bhendi Fry and Bharli Vaangi", and who knows what C will bring!

As soon as I saw Nupur's post on Amti, I knew I wanted to make it, but first I had to make a trip to the Indian grocery store to buy a few ingredients. I love an excuse to buy new and unfamiliar ingredients and my most recent acquisitions were jaggery (much like brown sugar), Shahi jeera (black cumin seeds), red chili powder, and toor dal (yellow split peas). I should have paid more attention to the fact that I was running low on a couple of the more familiar ingredients - cumin seeds and coriander seeds - but unfortunately it wasn't until I began cooking that I realized I didn't have enough of either. Rather than attempt a last minute trip to the store, I cut back on the amounts of the spices in the Amti masala to correspond with the amount of cumin seed that I had on hand (only one teaspoon of the masala is needed to prepare the Amti). Unfortunately, I realized after I had prepared the masala that I needed more cumin seeds for preparing the Amti itself - aaahhh! So rather than including the cumin seeds in the tadka, I included ground cumin with the other other spices that were supposed to be added to the oil and onion mixture before the cooked dal were added. Oops. So I threw them in after the dal. Next time I will do better. I promise.

In spite of all my foul-ups, the Amti was really delicious (of course I am partial to anything with beans). So imagine how good it must be when properly prepared! I ate the leftovers for dinner tonight and enjoyed it equally well the second time around, though I did need to add a little water to thin it out. I can't wait to see what the rest of the alphabet brings... I've already got my eye on B!

Zarah is still hard at work on a school assignment, but devoted food blogger that she is, I have no doubt she will have found another wonderful blog and recipe to share with us!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Mondays with Maida - Greenwich Village Brownies

Page 75 in the old book / page 123 in the new book

The brownies this week are truly over the top - 6 ounces of chocolate, 8 ounces of butter, 6 eggs, 3 cups of sugar plus some corn syrup for good measure, and 3 cups of pecans! Care to hazard a guess as to the number of calories in one brownie?

These brownies are made in a 10 1/2 x 15 1/2 inch jelly-roll pan, so it is a much bigger batch than last week, but the number of brownies isn't much greater - 24 last week versus 32 this week. I was rattling off the ingredients to someone in my office and they put it quite succinctly, "Wow, that's a meal." I found that half a brownie was more than enough at one sitting, so I'd recommend that you cut them smaller than suggested in the recipe.

The corn syrup creates very dense and chewy brownies, which Maida describes as being "almost like chocolate caramels". These went over extremely well in my office, but there were at least a couple of us (including me) that preferred the more traditional texture of last week's brownies.

These were a little more trouble than the other two brownies so far, but not much. The cake takes a little longer to cool and then must be chilled before cutting. After the cake had cooled to room temperature, I put it in the freezer for about 30 minutes and had no trouble cutting it.

There was a wider range of scores this week, the texture and type of nuts figured into the decision...

Suzanne: "These were the best brownies I've ever had. They are chewy and not cakey like last week's. As I was eating the brownie, I couldn't stop saying "hum" since they were so delicious. We are definitely into my element now -- chocolate, nuts and lots of sugar. They don't call me sweet Sue for nothing. Rating - 5+"

Denny: "Very good, like the big pecans but too moist. I thought they might be spiked with that name. Rating - 4.2"

Laura: "Tasty & yummy - you can never go wrong with chocolate! (I learned however, that while I like pecans in other goodies, I don't care for them in my brownies.) Rating - 3.0"

Phil: "A truly decadent brownie - rich fudge like chocolate, dense, moist with just the right mix of pecan chunks. Particularly suited for beatnicks, hippies, and free spirits everywhere. Rating - 5.0"

Overall rating by the panel - 4.3

Next week - Cream-Cheese Brownies

Nutrition Facts

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Dining with the Bloggers - September 14th

Sometimes it's fun to wander around among new and unfamiliar blogs, and occasionally you happen upon one that is just to your liking. I found such a blog this week - it belongs to Kate and is called Four Obsessions: Reading, Writing, Cooking and Knitting. I don't share all these obsessions, but they are most definitely all of interest to me at one level or another. And even though Kate doesn't bill her blog as a food blog, it does have a feature that will appeal to all food bloggers - an index of recipes in the sidebar!

Nearly every recipe sounded appealing, particularly things like Chocolate Polenta Pudding Cake, and Chocolate Orange Sorbet. But with my weekly cookie regimen, I felt obliged to resist these tempting treats and find something more from the "good for you" camp. I didn't have to look far. In a recent post, Kate described an amazing looking dinner of beer-can chicken, roast sweet potato wedges, buttermilk biscuits, and Alice Waters' coleslaw. Her favorite dish from the meal (and the one she provided a recipe for) was the coleslaw, so I decided to try it myself.

I risked life and limb and pulled out my much neglected mandoline at Kate's urging. She's right - it produces finely shredded cabbage which is perfect for this coleslaw. I usually end up with a much coarser cut, which is OK when you're using a creamy dressing, but for this lime juice and olive oil dressing, I think the finer cut works much better. The coleslaw also has jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced red onion, and a generous amount of cilantro. I would have loved some of that beer-can chicken alongside, but I had to settle for a pan-fried chicken breast. The coleslaw was easy to make, lovely to look at, and very good. I think it's safe to say this won't be the last time I dip into Kate's recipe file!

Zarah has been hard at work this week working on an assignment for school, but I suspect she took some time out to dine with the bloggers... after all a girl's gotta eat!

Monday, September 12, 2005

Mondays with Maida - All-American Brownies

Page 74 in the old book / page 120 in the new book

You know that saying, "less is more"? It has never been more deliciously proven than with these brownies. The recipe for this week's cookie is just a slight variation of last week's Petites Trianons. It is identical, except that it calls for half a cup of flour (as compared to a cup of flour in the Petites Trianons) and has some walnuts thrown in.

With that half cup of flour left out, these brownies become moist and fudgy. One might even think that they have more chocolate in them, but no... it's just that they have less flour.

The technique for these is the same as for the Petites Trianons: melt the butter and chocolate in a saucepan over low heat and then stir in the other ingredients. Couldn't be simpler!

For a while it looked like these brownies were going to get a perfect 5.0. They didn't, but they came mighty close...

Suzanne: "Great! This was the perfect brownie. Rating - 5.0"

Denny: "Should be renamed to Totally Awesome All-American Brownies. What a wonderful country. Rating - 5.0"

Laura: "Moist, chewy, yummy, & chocolatey. Absolutely DELICIOUS! Rating - 5.0"

Phil: "Shiny outer coating, moist fudgy innards tempered by the occasional chunk of walnut. While cookie reviewers are subject to strict rules of confidentiality, audible sighs of pleasure could be heard wafting from the cubes. Rating - 4.8"

Overall rating by the panel - 4.95

Next week - Greenwich Village Brownies

Nutrition Facts

Thursday, September 08, 2005

New Recipe Search Engine

Thought you all might be interested in this press release for a new recipe search engine called FoodieView. I just took a quick look and it looks pretty good. It seems to cover quite a few sites including Epicurious, Recipezaar, About, AOL (which includes Cooking Light), Food Network, Martha Stewart, Discovery Home Channel, RecipeSource,, Splendid Table (NPR), and the list goes on. It appears to have some text ads at the top of the search results but no pop-ups. Pretty neat!

Update: found an article in Search Engine Journal with some more information on this site. It apparently includes some "big food bloggers" too.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Dining with the Bloggers - September 7th

I can't believe how fast the summer went! There is still some warm weather yet to be enjoyed and the abundant September produce to look forward to, but there are signs everywhere that autumn is on the way. The kids are back in school, the lawn is a tad browner, the garden is looking a little scraggly, and Dining with the Bloggers is back!

This year promises to be an exciting one for Dining with the Bloggers, but I can't tell you why just yet. For now you'll have to be content to read about the delicious dishes that Zarah and I have sampled from the wide, wide world of food blogs.

I have been interested in cooking Indian food for some time now. I have long been reading and drooling over my numerous cookbooks on the subject, but only recently have I finally given it a try. As a a true novice, I am glad to have found that there are a number of food blogs that focus on Indian cuisine and that provide wonderful recipes and helpful tips.

At Mahanandi, Indira has a beautiful blog with many tempting recipes and gorgeous photos. In addition to traditional recipes, Indira also posts recipes that make use of vegetables that she can buy where she now lives - here in the US.

This week I tried two of Indira's recipes: tomato rasam and Guggullu. Because I didn't make it to the farmers market this week and couldn't find any really ripe tomatoes in the grocery store, I used canned tomatoes for the tomato rasam. It was very good - not as clear as what I've had in my local Indian restaurant (probably because my canned tomatoes were packed in puree) and sweeter than I remember, but spicy and delicious. Its spiciness took me by surprise - I don't normally think of black pepper as packing a punch like that!

The Guggullu was wonderful as well. A beautiful mixture of black-eyed peas, chili pepper, tomato, red onion and corn that is seasoned with turmeric and lime juice. Although Indira provided this recipe as an example of her "yogi diet", with its filling beans and corn, that burst of lime, and definite eye appeal, this dish will not leave you feeling deprived in any way.

I have no idea what Zarah has up her sleeve this week, so you'll just have to stop by and find out for yourself!

Mondays with Maida - Petites Trianons

Page 73 in the old book / page 119 in the new book

Petites Trianons fall somewhere between brownies and cake. The batch I made was cakey and a little drier than I would have liked. I baked them for exactly 28 minutes as prescribed by Maida, but I can't help but wonder if I should have taken them out a little sooner. She describes them as "small, plain, fudgelike squares similar to Brownies...", but they were fudge-like in taste only.

These bars are easily mixed in a saucepan, so this was truly a no-fuss recipe. I bought a big chunk of Callebaut baking chocolate (sold by the pound in Whole Foods) which I used for these and will be using for the next few recipes. The cookies tasted great, but I'm not sure I can detect the difference between a good baking chocolate and an "ordinary" baking chocolate (such as Baker's or Hershey's). It would be interesting to do a side by side comparison some time. It has been a while since I last made brownies and I must say, there are few things in this world that smell as good as chocolate and butter baking together - no matter which kind of baking chocolate you use!

I wouldn't choose to make these again because I prefer a moister brownie, but if you like cakey brownies, you can't beat this recipe for simplicity.

Even though this wasn't a stunning debut for the bar cookies, I think everyone was pretty happy to be getting their chocolate fix again...

Suzanne: "This was a cakey brownie and a little dry. The brownie did not have a rich dark chocolate flavor that I like in a brownie. Rating - 3.0"

Denny: "Very good. I liked the cake-like texture very much. Very good. Rating - 4.2"

Laura: "Moist, yummy, & TASTY! Rating - 4.0"

Phil: "This 'cookie' was exactly as Cathy advertised - like brownies, but a little cakier. My sample was a smidge dry, with a subtle but lasting after taste of fine chocolate. Was expecting something a little more elegant with this moniker but c'est la vie. Rating - 3.3"

Overall rating by the panel - 3.6

Next week - All-American Brownies

Nutrition Facts