Creamy Tomato Chicken Stew

Chicken Stew
The other night, my friend commented that I couldn’t #deletefacebook because of this blog – I’ll lose my followers. It made me realize that my friends don’t understand the details of this passion hobby diversion of mine (and most likely don’t care). I take that as a good sign I’m not blathering on and on about “my blog” every second or every day. In truth, Facebook only accounts for 3% of traffic to my site. Surprisingly, my primary source in 2017 was the lesser-known Fridgg, making up about 25% of visits followed by various search engines with 13%, Foodgawker with 10% and my WordPress readers with 6%. I’m a devoted fan of Fridgg, a site that doesn’t determine what photos are worthy and unworthy based on some intangible – if the submitter believes them worthy, Fridgg does, too. Food photo democracy.

2018 is shaping up a bit differently. My primary source in 2018 has been search engines (15%), closely followed by Foodgawker (13%), with WordPress and Fridgg both at 10%. Facebook is still about 3%.

This brings me to another insight – My recent Foodgawker acceptance rates, THE site that determines if your photos are “worthy.” I think I’ve finally managed to crack their submission code. The first few years, my submission acceptance hovered around 30% – actually not too bad for the gold-standard of food photo sharing sites. Now, I’m at 45%, with February’s at 83% and March’s acceptance at 87%.

87%??! I’ll take that. I’m still undecided about Facebook.


Creamy Tomato Chicken Stew


Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 ½ cups Gruyère cheese
  • ⅓ cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tablespoon Balsamic vinegar

Directions

  1. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Cook chicken (in batches if needed) until brown on all sides. Set chicken aside. Add carrots, onions and garlic cloves to pot and sauté until soft and beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste and cook until mixture forms a golden crust at the bottom of the pan. Add tomatoes with juice and stock, scraping up the crusty bits on the bottom of the pan and breaking the tomatoes apart. Heat until boiling, then return chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan.
  2. Reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook for about 25 minutes. Stir in cheese, cream and balsamic. Season with salt and pepper. Serve chicken and sauce over noodles, rice or polenta, sprinkled with a little more cheese, if desired.

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Cardamom Rose Latte

Cardamom Rose latte garnished with rose petals
In general, I’m not a fancy, foo foo, flavored latte kind of person. Mornings, I prefer a single cappuccino (no messing around with “caff” or “fat” or “pumps” or “Vente”) or, after dinner, a perfectly pulled single espresso with just a bit of raw sugar. When feeling especially indulgent, I may splurge on a true macchiato with an orange twist (Not to be confused with Starbuck’s bastardization, look it up).

These were my go-to hot beverages until, a few months ago, I discovered (gasp!) cardamom rose lattes at my local coffee house. Cardamom? And Rose? Decidedly foo foo, I was nonetheless hooked. If Chai was female, it would taste like this. I adore citrusy-spicy cardamom and use it often in my baking – an unexpected alternative to cinnamon and I’ve always been a fan of those delicate, rose-scented syrupy Indian sweets. Combine these two flavors with creamy steamed milk and a bit of espresso and you have an exotic spicy, floral sweet treat that can only be described as well-being in a mug.

Since returning to work, I’ve taken to making my own cardamom rose latte so I can begin each morning with this comforting, soothing brew. It makes my morning a bit brighter.

To learn more about the benefits of rose, check this out.


Cardamom Rose Latte

  • Servings: about 12 – 24 lattes, depending on size
  • Print
Inspired by a latte at my favorite local coffee house.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cardamom
  • 2 Tablespoons rose water

Directions

  1. To make syrup: In a small saucepan, heat sugar and water together until sugar is completely melted and mixture looks clear. Remove from heat, stir in cardamom, cover, and let steep for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Strain through cheesecloth and add rose water.
  2. To make latte: Make latte according to your machines directions. Stir in one tablespoons of syrup (or to taste) for each 8 oz. of milk. Breathe deeply and enjoy.

Raspberry-Rose Viennese Whirls

Viennese Whirls
If baking is Love made edible, then these Viennese whirls are my billet-doux to St. Valentine, himself – layers of homemade raspberry-rose jam and vanilla buttercream sandwiched between delicate melt-in-your-mouth Viennese cookies. Will you be mine, Valentine?


Raspberry Rose Viennese Whirls

Love made edible – slightly adapted from Mary Berry’s recipe.

Ingredients

    Jam
  • 7 oz. frozen raspberries
  • 7 oz. sugar
  • 4 teaspoons rose water
  • Cookies
  • 9 oz. unsalted butter, very soft
  • 1 ¾ oz. confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • ⅛ teaspoon table salt (not kosher salt)
  • 8 oz. all-purpose flour
  • 1 oz. cornstarch
  • Buttercream
  • 3 ½ oz. unsalted butter, softened
  • 7 oz. confectioner’s sugar, sifted plus more for dusting
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Make the jam: Combine the frozen raspberries and sugar in a small deep-sided saucepan and bring to boil over a medium heat. When the sugar is melted, increase the heat and boil for another 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and add rose water. Transfer to a small container (pass it through a sieve if you’d rather not have seeds in your jam). Leave to cool and set.
  2. Make the cookies: Preheat the oven to 375F. Line 3 baking sheets with baking parchment. Using a 2” round cutter as a guide, draw 8 circles on each sheet of paper, spaced well apart. Turn the paper over so the pencil marks are underneath.
  3. Beat the butter, confectioner’s sugar and salt in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Sift in the flour and cornstarch and beat until thoroughly mixed. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a medium star nozzle. Pipe 24 swirled rounds (not rosettes), inside the circles on the baking sheets. Refrigerate cookies for 15 minutes before baking (this will help cookies retain their shape).
  4. Bake in the center of the oven for 13—15 minutes, until pale golden-brown. Cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  5. Make Buttercream: Beat the butter, confectioner’s sugar and vanilla until fluffy and smooth. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a medium star nozzle.
  6. Assemble: Spoon a layer of jam onto the flat side of 12 of the cookies and place jam-side up on a cooling rack. Pipe an equal thickness of buttercream over the jam and sandwich with the remaining cookies. Dust with confectioner’s sugar. Share the love.

Walnut Cake with Cherry Filling

Walnut Cake
With a natural design esthetic that falls along the line of Egon Schiele and Edvard Munch, it’s challenging to content myself with royal icing roses and buttercream doll cakes. I realize, however, as an utter decorating novice, I’m obliged to acquire the basic skills first. I’ll discover my particular decorating style once I’ve mastered gum paste pigs and delicate string work. Today, I’m struggling to learn a technique called “brush embroidery,” although the final product reminds me of porcelain rather than embroidery. I’ve learned much on my initial flawed attempt.

With my first cakes, I’ve been practicing rolled fondant. While I appreciate the smooth finish fondant delivers, I’m not an admirer of the lackluster, tooth-achingly sweet flavor. When served a slice of fondant-covered cake, I typically peel off the fondant before eating the naked cake. As a counterbalance to fondant’s sweetness, I came up with this minimally sweet walnut cake and tart Morello cherry filling; no fondant peeling needed.


Walnut Cake with Cherry Filling

Use your favorite vanilla buttercream recipe with this cake

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • ⅓ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs beaten, room temp
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • Vanilla Buttercream
  • 1 jar Morello cherries in light syrup (available at Trader Joe’s), drained and dried on paper towel.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour two 9” round cake pans. Whisk together flour, sugars, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir in the oil, buttermilk, water, vanilla and beaten eggs until no lumps remain (don’t overmix). Stir in walnuts.
  2. Pour batter evenly into pans.  Bake for 20-22 minutes or until a few moist crumbs cling to a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake. Cool in pans on wire rack for 15 minutes. Turn cakes onto racks and cool completely.
  3. Fill cake with buttercream and a layer of Morello cherries. Frost top and sides of cake with remaining buttercream. Cover in fondant, if desired.


Cake Decorating

Practicing “Brush Embroidery”

Apricot Pocket Cookies

Apricot Cookies
SCENE ONE: 2:16 a.m. after their eighth date, a couple are entwined on the couch, an empty bottle of wine and two wine glasses are located on a table in front of them. A small bowl of homemade truffles sits between the glasses.

[kissing, kissing, kissing]

Him: “It’s late. I should probably go home soon.”

[more kissing, kissing, kissing]

Me: “Do you want to go home…or do you want to sleep here?”

[continued kissing, kissing, kissing]

Him: {silence}

Me: “It’s not a trick question.”

[more kissing, kissing, kissing]

Him: {silence}

Me: “Okay…I’ll answer for you. You want to go home.”

Him: {silence}

[kissing, kissing, kissing]

Him: “I guess I owe you some sort of apology or explanation.”

Oh god, please don’t apologize. That will make me feel like more of a lusty sexual deviant than I already do. And, as far as an explanation, what could you possibly tell me that would make me feel better about getting shot down for sex? I either don’t want to know or – if you have a valid excuse – this situation just became way too complicated for me.

I don’t let him give me an excuse, but I manage to think up a few of my own.

10 reasons he won’t sleep with me:
1) He finds me unattractive
2) He’s transgendered or gay and hasn’t worked up the courage to tell me
3) He has a secret girlfriend and he doesn’t want to “cheat” on her
4) He thinks sex will make me too “attached” [It won’t]
5) He’s bad in bed
6) He thinks I’ll be bad in bed
7) He has an STD
8) He thinks I’ll make him stop sleeping with other people [which is true]
9) I stink [armpit, cooch and breath check!]
10) He has ED or some other medical issue that precludes the horizontal mambo

SCENE TWO: It’s 6:00 p.m. the next evening. The same woman, alone, is curled up on the couch wearing her pj’s. Two cats sleep soundly beside her. On her lap is a platter of these cookies that she is devouring – one by one and without regret. Sometimes – most times, actually – the easiest company is our own.


Apricot Pocket Cookies

  • Servings: 27 cookies
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup apricot jam
  • ¼ cup finely chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 Tablespoons turbinado sugar (like Sugar in the Raw)
  • ¼ cup chocolate chips
  • 2 Tablespoons powdered sugar

Directions

  1. With an electric mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Mix in the vanilla extract. Gradually add the flour, mixing until just incorporated (don’t overmix).
  2. Remove the dough from the bowl and form it into a 1” thick scare. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill 1 hour.
  3. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into a rectangle 9” x 12”. Cut the dough lengthwise into 3 strips 9” x 4”. Spread each strip with apricot jam and sprinkle with walnuts. Starting from the long side, roll each strip into a log. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice each log into 1” pieces and place on a parchment or silicon lined baking sheet. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake until golden brown, 22-25 minutes.
  5. To decorate, melt chocolate chips in microwave, stirring every 30 minutes until smooth, about a minute. Drizzle cookies with chocolate and dust with powdered sugar.