Friday, August 19, 2011

Sweet Ginger Lemon Tea

I love herbal teas. I really enjoy trying different spices and combining them into tea. You can do so many things with mint, anise, ginger, vanilla bean, lime rind, lemon rind, orange rind you name it.

Recently, I ended up with extra ginger after working on my Oh Baby, Baby Carrot Ginger Soup so I decided to make a simple herbal tea. It was a breeze and using simple syrup made it even easier.

Simple syrup is a combination of water and sugar. The idea is to dissolve the sugar into the water by cooking it so you have an easy sweetener handy without the bother of trying to dissolve the sugar later. This is a special blessing when serving cold drinks like iced tea or lemonade. 

Sweet Ginger Lemon Tea

1/4 cup chopped ginger root

2 cups of water

2 to 3 long strips of lemon rind

Simple syrup to taste. (Recipe follows below.)

Chop up the ginger.

In a sauce pan pour the water and add the chopped ginger root.

Add the lemon rind to the mixture.

Bring the tea to a boil, cover and let it simmer over low heat for about five minutes. 

Pour the herbal infusion through a sieve. Add simple syrup to taste.

Simple Syrup

2 cups sugar

1 cup water

This combination of water and sugar make for a very sweet simple syrup. If you want to make it lighter, you can use 2 cups of sugar and 2 cups of water.

For sugar, I use organic pure cane sugar which has a slightly brownish tinge. When this sugar dissolves into the water, it will have a slightly brownish color. This will affect the appearance of any drink in which you pour it, but I think the taste is wonderful. So the color issue does not affect me. 

Bring the water to a boil and add the sugar, stirring constantly until it is totally dissolved. You will know it is dissolved when you bring a metal spoon to the liquid and you do not see any crystals. You do not want to let the syrup cook for too long or it will become too thick. Let the syrup cool, transfer to a bottle, and refrigerate. It's good in the fridge for about a week. 

There's no one whose company I more enjoy than my dogs when sipping a cup of tea. Winslow was on the bed sleeping, but Kip decided to join me by sitting outside after the tea was brewed. It was already getting dark. It was that time, right before nightfall, when you get to see so many little creatures coming out to work avoiding the heat of the day.

On our avocado tree was a spider that was busy making a web. While I drank my tea, Kip and I sat and watched it weave. I got this shot of it busy at work with my camera. It was a fun night. Nothing like hanging out with your dogs, a cup of tea, and watching a spider spin its web at dusk.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Oh Baby, Baby Carrot Ginger Soup

Not long ago, I got together with Em...  You'll remember her as the Em from Em's Mom's Hot Fudge Chocolate Sauce. Em and I ventured out to one of our favorite Asian restaurants where they serve this superb carrot soy salad dressing. Now, to say Em is addicted to this salad dressing is an understatement. In fact, she's had this little habit since we were young adults... Now, we're much older adults... So yes, this restaurant has been around for awhile and for all the years they have been around they have been reluctant to give us the recipe for this dressing...Well, reluctant is not the word. They have downright REFUSED to share. Not so nice. So, we decided that we were going to crack the code of this salad dressing.

Now, you may be wondering what all this has to do with Oh Baby, Baby Carrot Ginger Soup. Well, it was in my various different experiments of figuring out how they made the salad dressing that I ended up creating this quite delicious soup! You see, at first I tried to make the dressing with raw carrot, but the color was off. The salad dressing has the distinct bright orange color of cooked carrot, not the reddish orange raw carrot color. So, I figured the carrot must be cooked and in trying to cook the carrot for the salad dressing, I came up with this soup. Well, okay, I still have not cracked the code to the salad dressing, and Em is none too happy with me at the moment, but I did come up with a very tasty soup. This one's for you Em, while I'm working on our research project!

Oh Baby, Baby Carrot Ginger Soup

1 lb baby carrots

2 cups water or chicken stock

1/3 cup + 1/2 tablespoon low salt soy sauce

1 tablespoon ginger root, grated

1/4 chopped large red onion

1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil

1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds

Sour Cream (to garnish)

Ginger root shavings (to garnish)

In a sauce pan heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the chopped onion. Cook the onions over medium high heat until the onions have softened - they will begin to look translucent. 

Add the water and carrots and cover. Set the heat to low. Let simmer for about thirty to forty minutes.  When the carrots are tender, (not mushy) transfer to a blender and liquefy. Be careful when transferring the hot liquid and carrots, as they will be very hot. 

Add the soy sauce, ginger, sesame seeds, and nutmeg. Blend again on liquefy. Serve hot. 

You can garnish with a dab of sour cream or garnish with ginger shavings.

Now, while I was busy with all this cooking, Kip decided to join me in the kitchen. He usually hangs out with me while I cook, since his favorite activity besides hanging around with me, is eating. He knows that when I cook, there is generally a treat for him in the offing. I guess he got a whiff of the soup, and it was not something that he would generally eat. So he decided to help.

Kip chewed up one of my measuring cups. I have to presume he did this to give me the hint to make something more to his liking next time! He doesn't like carrots much. But it gave me a great excuse to go down to Williams Sonoma  to purchase the All Clad measuring spoon and cup set, which I am enjoying immensely. 

Guilty Party

I still have not cracked the code on the salad dressing, but I'll continue to experiment, and who knows what other tasty soups I'll come up with in the meantime!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Devil Dog's Chocolate Angel Food Cake

Devil Dog's Chocolate Angel Food Cake with Em's Mom's
Hot Fudge Sauce as a Topper... Yum! Yum!
Recently, I had a BIG birthday... How BIG you might want to know? Well, big enough, let's say, that I needed to make a HUGE cake to hold many, many, many candles. So,with all that fire, it seemed to me that surely this was the birthday from Hell and that the Devil had to have something to do with it. Making a Devil's Food Cake for my birthday would be the natural solution to this problem. But as I sat there contemplating this, I knew that what I really wanted was an  Angel's Food Cake. I was definitely on opposite sides! So how could I possibly turn an Angel's Food Cake into a devilish delight suitable for all that fire? Chocolate, of course!

Kip Counts the Eggs

So as I sat there, watching my dog, Kip,  count all the eggs in a egg box, I came up with the idea of making a Devil Dog's Chocolate Angel Food Cake! Yes, not only would I make it of chocolate, but I would add the delicious flavor of orange and the taste of the seductive liqueur, Grand Marnier.

By now, anyone following this blog knows how much I love to add local flavors to different foods, and I love the combination of orange with dark chocolate. I also adore the taste of Grand Marnier with dark chocolate. Let's face it, I just love dark chocolate.It was my birthday and I'd have chocolate if I wanted to. So, off I began with my concoction.

This cake is a bit of work, so be prepared to spend some time on prepping.

Devil Dog's Chocolate Angel Food Cake

1 Box of 12 eggs

3 Squares Ghirardelli 100% Cacao Unsweetened  Baking Bar

1 3/4 Cups Ground Sugar

1 Cup Sifted Cake Flour

3 Tbs Half and Half or Non Fat Cream

1/2 Tbs Butter

2 Tsp Grand Marnier

1 1/2 Tsp Cream of Tartar

1 Tsp Grated Orange Rind

1/4 Tsp Salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Begin by separating the egg yolks from the egg whites. It is best to separate the egg yolks from the egg whites while the eggs are cold. Egg separators like the one shown in this photo, make the job easier.

Once you have the egg whites separated, cover them and let them stand so they can reach room temperature, about twenty to thirty minutes.

Grate the rind of an orange until you have 1 tsp, careful not to eat into the pith of the fruit, which is bitter. A great tool for this purpose is the Microplane. 

Break off three squares of the Ghiradelli 100% Cacao Unsweetened Baking Bar.

Butter the bottom of a saucepan and add the chocolate squares and the 1/2 tablespoon of butter. Melt the chocolate and the butter in a sauce pan on medium heat, add the cream, orange zest, and Grand Marnier, and set aside so that the mixture reaches room temperature. 

Grind the granulated sugar in a blender. By doing this, it makes it easier to incorporate into the egg whites when you whip the sugar into egg whites.

Sift the cake flour so that you have one cup of sifted cake flour. 

Is it ready yet?

Give the dog the bad news that it's a "chocolate" cake and that unfortunately, this is not one goodie he'll be able to share in. Hand him a hankie and proceed to the next step.

Combine 3/4 cup of ground granulated sugar with the sifted cake flour and the salt. 

In a blender with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until they become foamy. You will know when they are foamy because you will see a mass of tiny clear bubbles. Add the cream of tartar which stabilizes the egg whites and prevents them from over-beating. Continue beating the eggs until soft peaks form. Typically, you will know that you have soft peaks when you lift the beaters and the peaks droop.

Add in the additional cup of sugar, two to three tablespoons at a time, giving the sugar time to dissolve into the egg whites. The fact that the sugar is ground at this point makes it easier for the sugar to dissolve more quickly into the egg whites. Beat until stiff peaks form. You will know you have stiff peaks when you lift the beaters and the egg whites hold their shape, but still look moist. The photo above shows stiff peaks. 

Take about 1 cup of the beaten egg whites and add it to the chocolate mixture.

Whisk the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to give it some lift. Do not over whisk. 

Add the flour mixture to the remaining egg whites gently, but quickly folding the flour into the egg whites. I did this in my blender with the whisk attachment, and it came out quite nicely. Once that is complete, gently fold in the chocolate mixture into the flour egg white mixture. I am careful about this step, because overworking the batter, will cause the fluffiness to deflate.  Pour the batter into an Angel's Food pan. I used a Kugelhopf pan, which I think gives the cake  a prettier shape and works just as well. Put the cake into the oven and let it bake for approximately 35 to 40 minutes, or until you can insert a knife in the center of the cake and it comes out clean. 

When you take the cake out of the oven, immediately place it upside down on an empty wine bottle and let it cool completely. 

Surely, it's ready now!
Remind your pooch, that it's a chocolate cake and that he still can't have any! This is the hardest part of making the entire dessert!

Sprinkle powdered sugar over the top. The easiest way to do that is to put a couple of tablespoons of sugar into a strainer and dust the sugar over the cake. For this cake, I also like to add as a topper Em's Mom's Hot Fudge Sauce. It is a delicious and devilish addition to this cake!

In the end, I decided not to put any candles on the cake, It was hot enough as it was!