Wow! The last two weeks have been so incredibly busy for us…The Husband had some minor surgery, we spent some quality time at the State Fair (one of my most anticipated events of the entire year!), we’ve spent some extra time with family and school has started back up – whew!
All the while, my poor little blog hung out quietly alone in the corner waiting for me to have a moment to cook something. I have to admit, my kitchen’s been a little lonely for the past couple of weeks, too, as we’ve either shared meals with friends or family at get-togethers or opted for convenient restaurant options on our super-busy days. I swear my oven thinks I’ve abandoned it.
For whatever reason, it always takes me just a little bit of time to readjust and get back into the groove when my routine changes – I guess I’m not as flexible as I always think I am! But it’s time to get back on track – and back in the kitchen!
The only really delicious thing to have come out of my kitchen in the past few days was this really yummy berry cobbler. I snapped pictures right before The Redhead decided to try to do some unofficial “taste testing” with her fingers – luckily for the visitors we had over to share dessert, I caught her right in time.
We all really enjoyed it – too bad I also had to enjoy scrubbing out the oven after we were done! Word to the wise (I totally knew better and should have done this in the first place): if you’re gonna cook delicious, juicy, ripe berries in the oven and you don’t put a cookie sheet under your baking dish, you’re gonna end up with disgusting, dried out, burned berries in the bottom of your oven…and you’re gonna get real friendly with the steel wool. Uggg.
On the bright side, maybe I scrubbed away the calories from the cobbler (?!). Speaking of calories, I’ll be posting the delicious and the not so delicious food I had fun eating at the fair shortly.
Blog, it’s good to see you again!
As a girl growing up in Mississippi, my favorite place to be as a child was with my grandparents – Memaw and Pepaw Jay. I used to spend as much time at their house as I could manage and loved exploring their big backyard, listening to music in the kitchen and enjoying my Memaw’s old-fashioned, southern comfort-food cooking. One of my very favorite food memories is sitting at their kitchen table enjoying one of Memaw’s freezer staples: Peach Ice Cream. The cold, rich cream flavor on my tongue and biting into bits of chilled, vibrant ripe peach…..Mmmmmmm! Funny – I’ve never met anyone since who’s ever stocked peach ice cream. Super-chunky-fudgy-monkey-cookie-dough varieties have become the norm, but I like a more minimalistic approach to my favorite flavors: clean, simple and fresh. So this is how childhood memories have become the catalyst for trying to make my very first batch of homemade ice cream!
I decided on a recipe from an ice cream cookbook I’ve had on my shelf for a while – the recipe didn’t call for a lot of extra sugar and took a simple approach to the ice cream base instead of the slightly more complicated, traditional creme anglaise base made by cooking down eggs and cream.
The heavy cream and peaches have been bought and the ice cream maker bowl has been in the freezer for 24 hours!
1. I peeled and sliced four large, ripe, beautiful peaches and cooked them down until they were soft, but not mushy; then I cooled them thoroughly.
2. I pureed most of the peaches and all of the peach syrup with 1 1/4 cups of evaporated condensed milk.
3. I forced the mixture through a sieve to remove brown flecks of peach – it’ll be pretty thick. Then, I diced the remaining peaches and added them into the strained mixture – you can make the peach pieces as big or small as you’d like them.
4. In the meantime, I used my stand mixer to whip the heavy cream on high speed until it holds its shape (but don’t let it fully get to the whipped cream stage – it should be slightly only slightly stiff.)
5. Lastly, I folded the whipped heavy cream into the puree’ mixture and poured it right into my ice cream maker – you will just want to follow your manufacturer’s directions on this part!
Taa-daaaa! Peach Ice Cream, just like I remember! Everyone in my family really loved it – I even made a little batch of crumble topping, just like you might have on peach cobbler with oatmeal, brown sugar and a little cinnamon and vanilla and crumbled it over the top…..it was such a delicious treat in this crazy hot weather we’ve been having, and I think my Memaw would be proud!
JJ’s Coffee Company & Wine Bar
Eden Prairie, MN
I’m going to be in huge trouble when I get home!!!
I told my husband that I would just be making a short trip out for my weekly Coffee Shop Sunday segment and then run a couple of errands and instead, I’ve been relaxing in this comfortable booth, enjoying baked goods and delicious coffee for a little over two hours now!
But I swear it’s not my fault! I blame JJ’s Coffee Company & Wine Bar for having the most inviting, comfortable seating and friendliest staff in the Twin Cities. The oversized leather chairs gathered around the fireplace give you no choice but to get comfortable and stay a while…I’m pretty sure this place is equipped with some sort of time warp – and I love it!
JJ’s moved into Eden Prairie in August of last year and is locally owned by a husband and wife team whose passion for their business shows in the lovely details of their shop, and who keep it local by choosing to serve coffee made from specialty beans roasted right here in Minnesota.
I am delighted to say that this Coffee Shop Sunday features a two-in-one bonus: a coffee shop and wine bar in one! I can’t live without good coffee and I adore good wine every bit as much, so this is an exciting find for me…I have to say that I kept to the coffee for this visit, but am going to have to make up for my absence today by scheduling a date night with the husband soon!
With JJ’s modern and upscale yet relaxed look, I can completely imagine it easily transforming from the sunny, casual coffee shop atmosphere that I’m experiencing this afternoon to a perfect evening spot for sampling wine and appetizers while having good conversation with friends either at the bar or in one of the intimately lit, recessed booths.
Here’s my spread: Cafe MJ and a warm Cinnamon Scone
First, let’s talk coffee – JJ’s coffee is something to come back for, all by itself. My Cafe MJ is a perfectly indulgent combination of espresso, blend of chocolates and cream with a homemade whipped cream topping. It’s a good thing that JJ’s has a drive-through – I may find the need to stop by for another one of these tomorrow on my way to work!
I’m here too late for breakfast, but JJ’s serves scones, cookies, bars and muffins – the cinnamon scone and chocolate banana muffin came highly recommended – as well as made to order sandwiches. This cinnamon scone, drizzled with vanilla icing is warm and absolutely delish. It makes me want to plan on making a morning visit to try one of their hot breakfast items.
Alright – I hate to, but I’ve got to force myself out of this booth and to the grocery store to finish my errands, but I’ll be back soon for coffee or wine or live music – I hope you’ll join me and make the time to try out JJ’s Coffee Company & Wine Bar!
The warm breeze, late evening sunsets and children’s laughter as they play outside – these are some of my favorite things about Summertime. Summer inspires me to take extra moments in my day to just soak in my environment – to enjoy simple, easy living and the freedom that comes from not having to plan ahead to bundle up to go outside or scrape snow off the car before driving like in the certain chilly months to come.
When I think of easy, simply delicious summer food, fruit is the first thing that comes to mind: perfectly ripe, seasonal, juicy, lovely fruit. I made this dish last night and it was so delightful, I absolutely could not wait to share it with you!
I fell in love with this dish right from the start for two reasons: it incorporates healthy and local ingredients for a fantastic alternative to sugary desserts and, maybe even more importantly, it indulges my love for the produce section! It’s a little ridiculous how much I enjoy the process of picking out good produce, but in this age of pre-packaged, pre-made everything, using your all of your senses to choose exactly the fruit or vegetable that you want feels so down-to-earth to me.
Plums are one of those stone fruits that I typically accidentally overlook – it’s not flashy, it’s not exotic, but it IS delicious…and it’s sweet, tart flavor and really comes out when it’s slowly baked in the oven. This recipe does call for a little bit of sugar sprinkled on the tops of the plum halves before baking, but the sugar could be left out completely and the dish would taste every bit as good….on the other hand, you could go the other way and caramelize the tops of the plum halves with sugar and a torch/broiler after they bake for a crunchy, sugar coating!
Every summer, I stock up on home-grown, Minnesota honey from the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market – Marquette Honey Farms is my favorite honey vendor. I can’t get enough, so I was excited to pull it out for this dessert!
A dollop of tangy Greek Yogurt and some roasted hazelnuts and you have one simply delightful, flavorful summer dessert!
Here’s the Recipe:
6 dark plums, halved and pitted
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup 2 percent Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons hazelnuts, toasted in the oven at 375°F for 7 minutes, chopped
2 teaspoons honey
Heat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place plums cut side up on sheet, brush with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until soft and some juices run off, about 15 minutes. Divide among 4 bowls, top each with 2 tablespoons yogurt, sprinkle with nuts and drizzle with honey.
Patrick’s Bakery & Cafe
Do you have plans for lunch next weekend? Cancel ’em. A favorite place to get dessert? Get ready to reconsider. Plans to cook? Put down the apron.
You need to try Patrick’s Bakery & Cafe – a place that’s much more than the strip mall coffee shop it appears to be!
One reason that I was on the edge of my seat to visit Patrick’s was its charming back story: Patrick Bernet – from French culinary child-wonder to prestigious award winner to military man, he’s acquired an impressive resume’ of positions as Chef and Instructor throughout the world and finally wound up in the Twin Cities (thank you, fate!) as Pastry Chef at the Hotel Sofitel where he decided to open his own bakery and cafe.
Just walking into Patrick’s, the bakery case that runs the entire length of the wall showcases Chef Bernet’s emphasis on beautiful, pastry perfection. Each tray of sweets, cakes, breads and pastry reflect an incredible attention to detail and food perfectionism.
There were so many different amazing looking options, I ended up pointing at and asking about a lot of different items…the woman behind the counter was extremely helpful and offered her recommendation: Sarah Cake. Get ready for this – it looks amazing!
Here’s my spread: Sarah Cake and Iced Vanilla Latte’ (waaaay to hot today for hot coffee!)
First of all, the latte’ was great – really delicious and refreshing! I wanted so badly to take it out and enjoy it in the outdoor seating area beautifully decorated with ivy and lights, but it was so hot I was worried that my cake would melt!
I so thoroughly enjoyed this cake – dark chocolate ganache and candied nuts covering a chocolate mousse, chocolate and vanilla sponge cake, all topped off by a mini pistachio macaroon and beautiful artisan white chocolate garnish.
I honestly exclaimed out loud when I discovered the pistachio mousse surprise in the center!
I really can’t say enough about this cake – it was beautiful, smooth, rich and light, all at the same time. I am going to see it in my dreams.
There were a couple of things that I didn’t care for at Patrick’s: food was served on green trays which reminded me of standing in line at the school cafeteria and there were a couple of small things placed around the cafe that stood out to me as not jiving with the warm, rich ambiance that Patrick’s tries to create, like a large digital sign showing the room capacity. The atmosphere is distinctly charming, though, and obviously personal to its owners which far outweighs these little details.
My next goal is to visit Patrick’s for lunch or dinner – the menu mixes the familiar with French classics: Croque Monsieur on their sandwich menu and Escargot and Duck a l’orange beside Grilled Salmon on the list of entrée’s. I’m also hugely tempted by Chef Bernet’s speciatly burger menu – the “Exclusive Patou™ line Hamburgers” (you’ll want to read it’s story – heartwarming!)…
…luckily, Patrick’s Bakery & Cafe is right here in the Twin Cities – I can feel like I’m visiting France without the 15 hour flight!
French chef Jean Christophe Novelli taught me two thing in Bravo’s 2009 reality cooking show I hated to love watching, Chef Academy: #1.Wearing lipstick in the kitchen throws off your tasting ability, and #2. Shoe Paste is awesome. After I watched contestants create drama-filled pastries of all kinds, I knew I’d have to try some of my own (sans the drama, hopefully).
Pâte à Chou (pronounced “pat ah shoe”), called Shoe Paste in my house, was even easier to make successfully than I thought it would be and made me feel more like a French pastry chef in a cafe in Provence rather than a first-timer in a tiny apartment kitchen.
The trick to making Shoe Paste is to add just enough eggs to make the paste the right consistency. It needs to be glossy and hold together, but not too stiffly – it should create soft peaks with your spatula. It took five eggs, total, for me to get the dough to this consistency – you’ll just need to add your eggs slowly, one at a time, and check the batter after each addition.
After it’s made, grab a piping bag and a large circle tip and go to town piping the Shoe Paste onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet! I wanted mini-eclairs, so I piped the dough into 1 1/2 inch lines. The awesome thing about this paste is as it bakes it rises up, not out, so you can pipe close together and fit lots onto one baking sheet.
In about 20 minutes, each unimpressive little globby line of Shoe Paste transforms into tall, flaky, lighter-than-air pastries before your eyes in the oven!
- Don’t open the oven door or touch your baking Shoe Paste if at all possible, no matter how much you might want to – these pastries are really delicate and just need to be left alone to bake properly
- Let ’em get a little browner than you think they should be – doing the toothpick doneness test won’t work with these, so color is the only thing you have to go on. If they’re too light when you pull the out, they’ll be too wet and eggy in the middle
- Don’t bake them on a non-stick mat – stick with a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. A nonstick mat will keep the bottoms of the eclairs from getting done enough and they’ll be a little mooshey.
For these eclairs, I melted a 60% cocoa bittersweet chocolate in a double boiler then dipped the very tops of each baked eclair and let cool on the baking pan until the chocolate hardened.
Then comes the lemon curd filling….
Lemon curd filling was the most time-consuming part of this recipe but was an amazing tart, refreshing surprise in this desert – definitely worth the time. The recipe also made some additional lemon curd that I could put in my fridge to eat later with scones, so that was a bonus.
Once you’ve made the lemon curd filling, simply put it in a piping back with a small circle tip and fill each eclair – dust with powdered sugar and viola!
Such a perfect dessert – If I had to choose between these eclairs and Jimmy Choos, Shoe Paste would win every time (but I wouldn’t mind having a pair of each…!)
Here’s the Recipe:
Pâte à Chou
Transfer dough to bowl of a standing electric mixer and beat in 4 eggs, 1 at a time, on high speed, beating well after each addition. Batter should be stiff enough to just hold soft peaks and fall softly from a spoon. If batter is too stiff, in a small bowl beat remaining 2 eggs lightly, 1 at a time, and add to batter, a little at a time, beating on high speed, until batter is desired consistency.
Lemon Curd Filling
- 3 large eggs
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice 3-4 lemons (do not use bottled lemon juice))
- 1 tablespoon finely shredded lemon zest
- 3/4 cup granulated white sugar
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
In a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and lemon juice until blended. Cook, stirring constantly (to prevent it from curdling), until the mixture becomes thick (like sour cream or a hollandaise sauce) (160 degrees F or 71 degrees C). This will take approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately pour through a fine strainer to remove any lumps. Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk into the mixture until the butter has melted. Add the lemon zest and let cool. The lemon curd will continue to thicken as it cools. Cover immediately (so a skin doesn’t form) and refrigerate for up to a week. Carefully stir in 1/2 cup homemade whipped cream to 1 cup lemon curd to make a lighter filling, if desired.