Friday, February 25, 2011

Kitchen Adventures: French Desserts

I've recently become beyond obsession with Julia Child and have decided that I would like to take a stab at mastering the art of french cooking. With this in mind, my awesome and adorable husband got me two Julia Child cookbooks for Christmas...and this lady has been in heaven.

After some serious reading, I put my game face on last week and took the plunge...and learned a few lessons that I'd like to share with you.

Part I: Vanilla Souffle
I've never had souffle. My husband has never had souffle. I'm feeling ambitious. It's Valentine's Day. I took a chance. {maybe i should of re-thought this...} It started out awesome! I measured out all of the ingredients...preheated the oven...and had no mercy! ...until...the egg whites just didn't seem fluffy enough...or were they?...maybe that's how they're suppose to look...I've never done this before. I'm sure they're fine. {wrong} Forty minutes later when the "glorious" souffle came out of the oven, it about an inch and a half tall. {what happened?}

...time to consult Julia...

This is what I learned:
• if any yolk intermingles with the egg deal! you can whip those egg whites into submission...and they will still fall flat!
• if any grease {including butter} touches the egg whites in the process of whipping {maybe from the whisk that you just whipped butter into the egg yolks with}'re in for a bad time...
• you can't use a glass bowl to whip the egg whites...they will never reach their true potential and will slide down the slippery bowl.

Hmmmm....thinking back...I did all of these things. A tiny spec of egg yolk may have made it into the egg white bowl. It was a glass bowl...and I know that I used the same whisk...awww...snap! Maybe I should of consulted page 159 {again} before attempting the recipe in the back of the plan...start over!

With the knowledge gained in round one...I made a lovely vanilla souffle {again} and felt relieved that it worked. Sadly...the Mannerings learned that they are not souffle fans that evening, but it was worth trying it out. Now we know, and knowing is half the battle.

Part II: Ladyfingers
With the souffle disaster and recovery a day behind me...I decided to try something new. My Dad kept talking about ladyfingers at Christmas time, so I thought that I'd give them a whirl. With my new and exciting egg white discovery in my hip pocket...I had no fear! They turned out delicious {first try}, but were not the prettiest pastries that I've ever seen.

Next time...I know to:
• Use a pastry bag! {not a spoon...and my fingers} The recipe told me to use a pastry bag, but in the excitement of the batter turning out how it was suppose to...I just winged it!
• Only place them in the upper 2/3 of the oven. With two trays of pastries, I placed one in the upper 2/3 and one in the lower 1/3. The lower tray turned out a little crispy...lesson learned!

All and all it was an awesome adventure of trying new things out. I'm no Julia Child...but I'm working on it. I hope that my new knowledge helps you out if you're a rookie like me. adventurous! Try something new! And don't let the yolk touch the egg whites when you're whipping them! Happy Friday!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Chili Bowl!

Chili has always been a cold weather favorite...and I love a good bowl of chili! {Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall}

So...where am I going with this...yesterday at work we had a chili cook-off of epic proportion! {at least for us}. People at my office love to eat, so any excuse to cook and hold a contest where we all get to graze is widely excepted among my co-workers. Add in a Super Bowl theme and people are pretty stoked!...thus the name...The Chili Bowl!

I went out on a limb this year and tried something new {aka made a recipe up as I went and crossed my fingers}. I went Italian...and am really happy with the result! {and...I actually came in first place this year!...awesome!}

If you're interested in trying it's my {not-so-secret} recipe! 

Amber's Italian Chili
What you'll need:
1 white onion {diced}
1 pkg Jimmy Dean Sage ground sausage
1 pkg mild Italian ground sausage
16 ounces tomato sauce {2 cans}
16 ounces chili beans in mild sauce {2 cans}
16 ounces black beans {2 cans}
16 ounces fire roasted diced tomatoes {2 cans}
1 pkg mild chili seasoning
4 large mushrooms {diced}
butter {just pull out the tub...and use your best judgment}
oregano {to taste}
fennel {to taste}
Italian seasoning {to taste}

First add a decent size spoonful of butter into a large pot. Turn stove top on medium heat. Once butter is frothy and melted, add diced onion to the pot. Cover and stir occasionally until onions start to get soft and golden brown. Turn heat down to somewhere between low and medium and add both types of sausage. Brown sausage stirring occasionally. Once sausage is browned, add your can goods! {no specific order...just get them all in there and mix well} Once everything is mixed well, add your package of Mild Chili Seasoning. Then, add oregano, fennel and Italian seasoning to taste. Now...for the mushrooms! While your chili is simmering, get a large skillet and add a decent size spoonful of butter to it. Turn heat to medium. Once butter is frothy and melted, add diced mushrooms. Don't crowd them. Make sure that they are evenly placed and that they have room around them. Allow them to simmer for a few minutes and turn them occasionally. {they're delicious if you sprinkle them with oregano and sage after they're coated in butter}Once they are golden brown, remove them from heat. Allow them to stand for a few minutes, then add them to the chili pot. Continue stirring chili occasionally until it is warm throughout. Serve hot! {yum!} Great with bread and maybe a little cheese on top!

If you're looking for a yummy dinner to make you feel all warm and cozy during this burst of winter weather...try it out! It's a twist on traditional with an Italian flare that may just bring your taste buds a smile! Happy Saturday! Hope that you have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Magic of the Sweet Groundhog + WIWW!

It's been really cold lately {and I live in the South} so I know that if you're any further North than're feelin' it too.

So...when will it warm back up?

Enter...the Groundhog...aka Punxsutawney Phil! I know that it's not scientific...but I believe in the magic of the groundhog! Will we have
6 more weeks of Winter...or will Spring come early? This morning...Phil did not see his that means that he has chosen Spring! {nice one Phil...I agree}

Yes...there is a massive blizzard going on all over the U.S.

Yes...there were snow flurries blowing around downtown Memphis on my voyage into work this morning.

Yes...I'm a Spring and Fall kind of though it looks and feels like Winter is sticking with us for a bit longer...I choose the optimistic vision of the groundhog and am super stoked for an early Spring! {yay!}

What does this mean for you? Joy & Excitement! Dreams of putting away those heavy coats in exchange for a light jacket...thoughts of planting vegetables, herbs and flowers, firing up the Bar-B-Que grill and actually being able to feel your hands while you cook something delicious over an open short...awesomeness and bliss! {unless you're a Winter person and hate that apologies...enjoy the next few weeks and soak it all in!}

With that...I'm moving on to WIWW {what i wore wednesday}!'s cold in Memphis {to the tune of about 26°} I'm bundled up! {and trying to amp it up from my usual t-shirt & skirts today legs feel the need to hibernate at anything under 30°...}

outfit overview
houndstooth jacket {holidays}
purple sequin ribbon shirt {wal-mart}
black skinny jeans {alloy}
black suede boots {alloy}
white gold hoop earrings {a gift from my parents}
red winter coat keeping it cozy! {alloy}

winter + cozy boots that my jeans tuck into=warm toes!
Attempt at full outfit shot...
warm & toasty in my happy red coat
Well...that's it for now! Hope that you had an awesome day in general and that the magic of the groundhog brought you a smile or two!
Happy Wednesday!