Monday, February 27, 2012

Living in and Loving our Cottage by the Sea

 Have you ever noticed when describing homes, if one uses "cute", "cozy", "bungalow", or "cottage" it almost literally translates into tiny?  Let me describe my house:  I live in a cute, cozy, bungalow type cottage on the corner, by the sea.  It's lovely and it's just a hop skip and a jump ( if you chose to use that method of transportation) from the Gulf of Mexico.  But, it is a bit on the cramped side.

SEGUE .....

So, before my school sabbatical, I was reading through chapter on tools and gadgets. Not sure that was the title, but it was definitely the idea.  It made me think about what my most frequently used tools are.  Then that led to the internal dialogue of how I don't have a ton of tools because I really don't have the room for them.  So I wanted to #1. show you the tools I almost couldn't live without and #2, show you some of the things we've done to fit more into a little bit of room.

Now, these are not by any means the fanciest tools in all the land, but they are the most often used in this little cottage cucina.  Lets discuss from the top:
  • Whisks:  You should have multiple sizes of whisks.  I use them the most when scrambling eggs and make bechamels or gravy's, or to sift dry ingredients when baking.  The smaller whisks are good for sauces and dressings and even hot chocolate. 
  • Bench Scraper:  I just added this to my arsenal recently.  I'm a sloppy cook and was so tired of dropping onions between the cutting board and the stove.  This helps me pick up more veggies and transfer them safely across the counter.  The dogs, however are pissed. 
  • Silicon brush:  Love this invention. From basting meat with BBQ sauce, to spreading olive oil on pizza dough.  It cleans up so much easier and doesn't shed bristles like a normal pastry brush. 
  • Tongs:  #2 most used tool (behind knife).  It flips meat, pulls the rack out of the oven and serves pasta.  As many pairs of tongs in as many sizes you can get your hands it. I even picked up a pair at a garage sale for $.50.  WINNING!!
  • Knife:  I love this knife.  My life changed when I got it.  Invest in a good quality one.  I need a lot more but your dices will turn out much better and the sharper the knife , the safer. 
Ok, the next two things were actually purchased to go in our RV.  But I used them so much they're in my kitchen now.

  • Hand grater:  Used almost daily for garlic or cheese.  It can also be used to zest citrus.  Love it. 
  • Spatula:  Yes this one is teeny tiny. But that's one reason I love it.  Its versatile and treats cookies and eggs equally gently. You should have metal spatulas as well as plastic/silicon to use on the non stick pans. 
  • Corkscrew:  I believe this needs no introduction.  I like the old fashioned waiter style corkscrews.  It's never met a cork it couldn't remove.  Some of the new fancy corkscrews don't work on fabricated corks. In this case, simple is better.
So are there things missing from my tool box?  I'm sure there is, but I would never know.

Let's move on to organization (i cringe at that word)

This is my kitchen... no, I'm not hiding any of it.  This is it:
I don't take up too much room when I'm preparing food. So the counter space is fine.  But the storage..UGHHHH.  There are 5 drawers...Count 'em.. One BIG on and 4 ittttyyyy bitttyyyy little drawers. About three regular size cabinets and two lazy Susan's  Which by the way, I LOATHE.  Terrible invention.  Those will be coming out here soon and we'll transform those corner cabinets into something a lot more workable. Anyway, With such little storage where is everything?  Well, first of all, thanks to some lengthy negotiation with my husband, some of my bigger platters and trays are stored in a cabinet in the garage.  I've also resigned myself to having to store some things on the counter top. I'm not usually a fan of it, but had very little choice in the matter.

 Plus, my mixer is pink.  So it's worthy of being front and center.  Or at least in the corner.

We also had an oddly placed bathroom right off the kitchen when we moved in.  Fortunately, I'm married to a very talented man who likes my cooking a whole lot.  So in order to continue to be on the receiving end of said cooking,  I gently persuaded him to take out the bathroom, seal it up and build a pantry.  I got the pegboard idea from Julia Child of course.
There is no way, I would have room for these if it weren't for this pantry.

                                                        A couple other quick ideas:
knife magnet

lid holder

One more thing we did to save space was add a couple little baskets on the inside doors under the sink.  I hold all my aluminum foil, plastic wrap, plastic baggies..etc.  It saves drawer room.

Hopefully these tips are helpful to someone.  I'm sure well continue to rearrange and come up with additional space saving ideas.  When we do, I'll be sure to share those as well.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Jacque Torres PERFECT Chocolate Chip Cookies

I've been talking about these cookies for a while now and keep promising  to post the recipe.  I can't explain how much better these cookies are than ANY OTHER CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE RECIPE ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH.  It is SOOOOPER important that you let this dough rest for at least 24 hours.  It makes all the difference.  So this is not an "on a whim" cookie recipe.

I've made it a couple times.  Once around Christmas and then again to turn into my husbands cookie cake.  By the way, if you make it a cookie cake, bake it at 325 degrees for around 30-35 min.  It turned out perfectly, except the little bit that made it over the pizza pan.  ;)

thats one BIG cookie. pre pathetic decoration

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons
(8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see note)***** ( i used giardelli bittersweet chocolate chips)****
Sea salt.

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.
3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

this is why I don't decorate cakes

Wild Rice Risotto Pilaf

Yet another recipe created while lying in bed thinking about how hungry I was and what it would take to satisfy me at that moment.  I do this more often than I care to admit. So the next day, it was on my agenda, only I didn't have the wild rice to get it done.  Its the ONLY wild thing I didn't have in my house. Anyway, days went by, I got the rice, but had other things to do..yada yada yada.  Today, I finally got to see my dream realized. I think I hit the nail right on the head with this one.
I love making  and more importantly, eating risotto, all kinds of it.  Asparagus, butternut squash, using red wine to turn it all purply, really any risotto is good with me. I think its the ultimate in UMAMI flavors.

This one is almost like a pilaf risotto. But it really does work. It would go really well with that pork loin that I had every intention on making tonight.  But the peanut butter jumped out at me and somehow a peanut butter pie was whipped up instead.  I swear, when my kitchen gets together with other kitchens for kitchens night out and they've had a few shots of spic and span, it must talk about how schizophrenic and random my cooking is.
Anyway, here's the recipe. Enjoy!!


  • ·         ½ cup wild rice
  • ·         Olive oil, salt and pepper
  • ·         1 head cauliflower
  • ·         48 Oz low sodium chicken broth
  • ·         2 tbs butter
  • ·         ½ medium onion
  • ·         2 cloves chopped garlic
  • ·         Handful of pecans, finely chopped
  • ·         1 cup Arborio rice
  • ·         4 sprigs of thyme
  • ·         4 glugs of white wine (about 1/2 cup) + one glass for the cook
  • ·         Salt
  • ·         ¼-1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook wild rice according to package directions. Start is about an hour before you want to cook the risotto.  Make sure you cook all liquid out of the wild rice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut cauliflower into florets, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast for about 30 minutes until tender and some light brown spots on cauliflower.  Remove from oven and set aside, Or in my case, nibble on the florets while risotto is cooking. 

Heat chicken stock in pan over medium heat.  Turn to low and maintain temperature throughout the risotto cooking process. 
Heat butter in saucepan over medium heat.  Add onions, garlic and pecans, cook for a couple minutes
onions, garlic and pecans...great way to start a risotto

Add Arborio rice and pre cooked wild rice.  Season with a bit of salt.  Toast mixture for about 2-3 minutes.  Strip leaves from the thyme sprigs and add into mixture. 

Turn heat to medium low and Add your 4 or so glugs of wine, will be about ½ cup. Don't forget the cooks glass.  Stir mixture and allow the rice mixture to absorb all of the wine and begin to add the chicken stock.   About ½ cup to ¾ cup at a time.  Continue to stir the rice/stock mixture until the rice absorbs the liquid.  And don’t forget to check for seasoning.  Add salt if needed. Repeat this process for about 25-30 minutes until the rice is cooked.  You may have chicken broth left over, don’t feel the need to use all of it.  It may not need it. Be careful not to take the rice too far.  It can turn into mush.

Once the rice mixture is just aldente, remove from heat and vigorously stir in Parmesan cheese.  It’ll tighten the mixture up and make it even creamier.  Toss the roasted cauliflower into the rice mixture. 

Serve along with your favorite roasted meat.  It makes a great bedtime snack as well.   You enjoy your risotto. I have a peanut butter pie hollerin' out to me from the fridge.