Thursday, May 31, 2012


I was reading something somewhere that gave me the idea to attempt to make my own Vietnamese baguettes. I remember how much I loved the french bread I ate when I visited Vietnam years ago, so I did a little Internet research to find a recipe. There were a lot of recipes to choose from, but ultimately, I selected one that was actually written in Vietnamese (someone had provided a translation in the comments section).
Baguette Ingredients:
  • 1 cup warm water (100F-110F)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2.5 tsp active dry yeast
  • 2¾ cups to 3 cups bread flour
  • 1 tbsp melted butter + 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Bit of diluted salt water for glazing the surface
  • Add warm water + sugar + yeast into a bowl (large enough to hold contents; see next step); stir to dissolve; let yeast rise about 10 minutes.
  • Add 2¾ cups flour + vegetable oil + salt into yeast bowl (as described in step above); stir evenly; knead dough; while kneading, if dough is still sticky soft, then add remaining flour little by little until enough (this is the purpose of the extra ¼ cup flour; the flour is added bit by bit so that the stickiness of the dough can be gauged); continue to knead the dough until it is smooth, satiny, and elastic enough. Transfer the dough ball into a container already greased with a thin layer of vegetable oil; turn the dough in the container to ensure that the entire ball is covered with a layer of oil (so the dough won’t dry out while rising); cover completely and put in a warm place for 1 hour for the dough to double in size.
  • Use a fist to lightly punch the dough down, then knead the dough about 3-5 minutes; cover again to let the dough rest for 15 minutes (disregard this stage if there’s not much time, but the dough still needs to be punched down before removing it).
  • Remove the dough ball; squeeze and divide into 3 parts; roll the dough into small balls and let them rest 5-10 more minutes.
  • Remove the dough; thinly roll it flat then fold/roll gently into long rolls; eyeball the shape and adjust as desired => put dough onto tray and cover with dishtowel or plastic wrap; let rise for another 45 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 460F; place on the bottom rack 1 empty tray (and prepare ¾ cup of boiling water).
  • When oven is almost ready, use a knife to cut slits on top of the dough => brush a thin layer of salt water on top of the dough => put tray with dough on the middle rack of the oven, then quickly pour 1 cup of boiling water into the empty tray already sitting on the bottom rack; close oven door immediately so that the steam can’t escape (by this time, the oven temperature should be as preset).
  • Bake for about 18 minutes; when the surface turns golden then it’s ready. Remove the bread; immediately brush on top 1 layer of melted butter (don’t brush on too much or the bread will pucker & it won’t be crispy).
Now, I thought I had failed miserably after the firt hour, the dough hadn't risen, and after reading about making yeast breads in the Betty Crocker cookbook, I believed that I may have killed my yeast by using water that was too hot (135-140°F). I gave the dough more time (another hour, this time in a 100°F oven) and it started to rise!
But, it looks like the damage was done, because after I baked the "bread," it was flat as a pancake! I need to try this recipe again and watch the temperature of the water more closely.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Strawberry Mousse Cake

Wanda sent me a link to a recipe for Strawberry Mousse Cake a few weeks ago, so I planned to make it on Memorial Day, since it might take some time, and I'd have the day off from work.

Strawberry Mousse Cake

Cake Layers

  • 1 ¼ cups butter, softened
  • 2 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 7 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 3 ½ cups cake flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
Strawberry Mousse
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup whipping cream
Strawberry Frosting
  • ¾ cup butter, softened
  • 5 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • ¾ cup finely chopped fresh strawberries
  • Halved fresh strawberries, edible flowers
  1. Prepare Cake Layers: Preheat oven to 350°. Beat 1 ¼ cups softened butter and 2 ¼ cups granulated sugar at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until fluffy. Gradually add egg whites, one-third at a time, beating well after each addition.
  2. Sift together cake flour and baking powder; gradually add to butter mixture alternately with 1 cup water, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in vanilla and almond extracts. Pour batter into 4 greased and floured 8-inch round cake pans.
  3. Bake at 350° for 22 to 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks, and cool completely (about 30 minutes).
  4. Prepare Strawberry Mousse: Sprinkle gelatin over ¼ cup water in a small bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Process 2 cups sliced strawberries and ¼ cup granulated sugar in a blender or food processor until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides as needed. Transfer strawberry mixture to a small saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat. Add gelatin to strawberry mixture, stirring constantly until gelatin dissolves. Cover and chill until consistency of unbeaten egg whites, stirring occasionally (about 30 minutes).
  5. Beat cream at low speed until foamy; increase speed to medium-high, and beat until soft peaks form. Fold whipped cream into strawberry mixture until well blended. Cover and chill 30 minutes or just until mixture is thick enough to hold its shape when mounded.
  6. Spread about 1 cup Strawberry Mousse between each cake layer, leaving a ¼-inch border around edges; cover and chill 3 hours or until mousse is set.
  7. Prepare Strawberry Frosting: Beat ¾ cup softened butter at medium speed 20 seconds or until fluffy. Gradually add powdered sugar and ¾ cup finely chopped strawberries, beating at low speed until creamy. Spread frosting on top and sides of cake.
Even though I used old baking powder, which, more than likely, is the reason for the flat cakes, the flavor was good. The frosting was a little too sweet at times, and I may have overbeaten it - it was really runny, as you can see in my picture. If you have a day to bake, I'd recommend it.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Creamed Chip Beef

After making the Welsh Rabbit yesterday, Tom had commented on its similarity to Creamed Chipped Beef, how expensive it was to buy at the grocery store prepackaged, and how we might be able to do it inexpensively at home. We looked at a few recipes on-line, and found one that might work.

Creamed Chipped Beef

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup milk
1 oz dried beef, cut into bite-sized squares

Melt butter in saucepan.
Gradually add flour, stirring constantly until smooth.
Slowly add milk, stirring constantly until thick and creamy.
Add beef, and heat on medium heat, until weel coated and warmed through.
Serve over toast.
I thought it tasted incredibly bland, but Tom loved it, which was the point entirely. We even scaled up the recipe to make 12 Tom sized servings, and are planning on making it and freezing indivual portions soon. I love food success!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Welsh Rabbit

Today, while realizing that I may have failed miserably at making Vietnamese baguettes, I started leafing through the Betty Crocker cookbook to see if there was something I could throw together in the interim. I decided on Welsh Rabbit, since I had all of the ingredients on hand.

Welsh Rabbit

3 tablespoons margarine or butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup milk
½ cup beer or white wine (Beer or wine may be omitted. Increase milk to 1½ cups.)
1½ cups shredded Cheddar cheese (6 ounces)
4 slices toast, cut into triangles

Heat margarine in 2-quart saucepan over medium heat until melted. Stir in flour, salt, pepper, mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Cook, stirring constantly, until smooth and bubbly; remove from heat. Stir in milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Gradually stir in beer. Stir in cheese. Heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until cheese is melted. Serve over toast. Sprinkle with paprika if desired.
There was a lot of the cheese sauce, probably enough for 5 or 6 slices of toast. I think that if I try it again, I'll use only milk. This time I used white wine, and the alcohol flavor was a little overpowering. Otherwise, it was a pretty decent, and filling, dish. Betty Crocker also says that you can serve it with asparagus, which might be worth a try.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


What was the last thing I brought to the Tidewater for my co-workers to try out? The Pork Banh Mi? Well, whenever that was, Adrienne mentioned something about empanadas, so I thought that I'd find a recipe and give it a whirl. The recipe I found was from the Time Life Books "Foods of the World" series, "Latin American Cooking" and I thought it would make a pretty authentic tasting empanada.

Empanadas de Horno

The Filling

  • ½ cup finely chopped onions
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ pound boneless sirloin steak, cut into ¼-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons seedless raisins, soaked in 1 cup boiling water for 10 minutes and drained thoroughly
  • 1 teaspoon dried hontaka chili, seeded and crumbled, or 2 small pequin chilies, crumbled
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
The Pastry
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ pound plus 2 tablespoons butter, cut into ¼-inch cubes
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 2 hard-cooked eggs, each cut into 8 wedges lengthwise
  • 6 pitted green olives, quartered
  • First prepare the filling in the following fashion: In an 8- to 10- inch skillet, combine the onions, olive oil and ½ cup water, and boil over high heat until water is completely evaporated. Add the meat and cook, stirring constantly, until it is browned on all sides. Stir in the raisins, chili, paprika, cumin, salt and a few grindings of pepper. Set the filling aside.
  • Preheat the oven to 400°. To make the dough, combine the flour, salt and butter in a large bowl. Use your fingers to rub the flour and butter together until they blend and look like coarse meal. Pour the water over the mixture all at once and gather the dough into a compact ball.
  • Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface, making a rough circle about 1/8 inch thick. As you roll, lift up the dough from time to time and sprinkle a light dusting of flour under it to prevent the dough from sticking. With a cookie cutter 5 inches in diameter or an empty can of similar size, cut out 5-inch circles. (Or using a plate or saucer 5 inches in diameter as a pattern, cut out the circles with a knife or pastry wheel.) Gather the scraps of dough together into a ball and roll out again. Cut out similar 5-inch circles.
  • Place about 1½ tablespoons of the meat filling in the center of each circle, leaving at least ½ inch of dough exposed around it. Top the filling with 1 piece of egg and 2 pieces of olive, and moisten the esposed dough with a finger dipped in water. Fold the empanada in half to form a crescent, and press the edges firmly together. Arrange the finished empanadas on an ungreased baking sheet. If they must wait, cover them with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate them.
  • Bake the empanadas on the baking sheet in the middle of the oven for 5 minutes, or until they are lightly browned. With a spatula, transfer them to a heated platter and serve at once.
  • NOTE: If you prefer, empanadas can be made in a smaller size suitable for cocktail accompaniments. Cut the dough into 3-inch rounds, and allow about 1 teaspoon of filling for each empanada.
Well, I definitely baked them for too long, waiting for the empanadas to brown as much as I imagine "lightly browned" to look, because they were a tad dry. Not my most successful attempt at something new, but the flavor was good.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Greek and Chicken Pasta

Today, before work, I put together a Greek and Chicken Pasta, baked it and brought it in to work with me. I found out with the pork recipe I tried last time, that if I try out new recipes on the girls at work, they are way more receptive to trying out new things than Tom is.

Greek and Chicken Pasta


  • 1 cup uncooked penne pasta
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup Progresso® reduced-sodium chicken broth (from 32-oz carton)
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 ½ cups chopped deli rotisserie chicken
  • 1/3 cup marinated artichoke hearts, drained, chopped
  • ¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sliced kalamata olives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 1-quart glass baking dish with cooking spray. Cook and drain pasta as directed on package.
  2. Meanwhile, in 2-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion; cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in flour; cook and stir 30 seconds. Slowly stir in broth; heat to boiling. Cook 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently, until thickened. Remove from heat; stir in cheese. Gently stir in cooked pasta, chicken, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, olives and parsley. Spoon into baking dish.
  3. Bake uncovered 25 to 30 minutes or until hot. Garnish with additional fresh parsley if desired.
This recipe is meant for two people, so I doubled it. Overall, I got positive responses from just about everyone who tried this dish. It was easy and delicious, and there were bursts of flavor in every bite.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Back to Hollywood

It's been a while, but I went to the Hollywood Casino in Perryville with Lisa and Nicole tonight after work. I didn't stay for long, since I have to work in the morning, but don't I usually have to work in the morning? After using the restroom and getting a couple of drinks from the bar, I didn't have much time before my self-imposed curfew came creeping up on me. Eventually, I walked out with winnings of $21, and since I left before the others, I have no idea how they did. I still had a good time.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Fiesta 5K

This morning, I participated in the Fiesta 5K to benefit to Packard Center at Johns Hopkins which does ALS research.

I walked with Comrade and Rabbi from band, and enjoyed myself. Rabbi was running late, so we didn't actually start walking until about 15 minutes into the race (which by the way, was close to when the first runner was coming in), but we eventually caught up to the back of the pack, and then even passed a whole bunch of people. We ended up finishing about an hour and 4 minutes after the start of the race - not too shabby if I do say so myself. One of the highlights was seeing Torrey Smith, a wide receiver for the Ravens.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Postcard Killers

I just finished reading The Postcard Killers by James Patterson and Liza Marklund, and it was a pretty decent book.

It starts out pretty simply, couples on vacation in Europe are being murdered, and someone’s trying to find the murderer. Once the police get close in Sweden, and you think you’ve got the murderers figured out, there’s a weird little twist. Then, when you think everything’s going to get wrapped up, there’s another weird little twist. It definitely kept me interested, and with a lot of short chapters, it was easy to read at work.