Monday, May 18, 2009

The calmest, coolest hip cat around

I don't think I've ever seen a cat so utterly calm. Be sure to stay onboard until the end, to hear the owner's comment, and the pet's response. So cute.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Tuna Salad

This month's first selection for Barefoot Bloggers is mine and I chose Ina Garten's Tuna Salad. This was a tough choice -- I moved up the list so quickly, I had to make new choices repeatedly as the time of year changed, and at the last minute, I just chose something I thought was fresh and simple and relatively healthy.

I also chose this recipe because the best "salad" I ever had was a grilled tuna salad dish at a Todd English restaurant -- Olives, in Las Vegas. It was so memorable I still think about it. Ina's recipe was similar in most respects, so I thought it would be a good stand-in.

Regrettably, I've learned that what I can get very easily -- tuna steaks for $5.69 a pound -- others cannot, so for those who gave this recipe a try, thank you, and for those who couldn't, I'm sorry about that. I trust you used the Barefoot Backtrack feature to choose something more to your liking.

I stared with Albacore tuna steaks -- $4.10 for the package. The steak is brushed with olive oil and grilled in a very hot pan. Ina instructs for just a minute or two on each side. This is essentially the same as the grilled tuna you'd find in restaurants, blackened on the outside and raw on the inside. While I do like this, I prefer my raw fish to be served to me in restaurants, and not handled in my own home, so for my version, I grilled it all the way through (and this is the way it was served in the Vegas restaurant, where I enjoyed it so much).

In the meantime, I'd mixed the dressing and tossed it with a chopped avocado, fresh from the Farmer's Market today. The dressing is very basic -- lime juice, olive oil, soy sauce, wasabi, salt and pepper. I ended up just whirling the ingredients together in quantities that tasted good to me. I didn't add nearly the salt she called for -- soy sauce takes care of that, and I added sesame chili oil in addition to the drops of hot sauce. I'm a hot sauce weenie, I don't like it all, but I know it serves an important purpose in certain dishes, like Asian dressings. I also added a lot more wasabi than called for. Love that stuff.

After the tuna chunks were grilled, I added them to the dressed avocados.
Now, bear something in mind. Ceviche, a traditional spanish dish of cold fish in a citrusy lime dressing, is "cooked" by adding lime juice to fish. The acid cooks the fish, so this tuna salad, which contains a lot of lime juice, cannot be made in advance and stored without the lime juice cooking the fish. If you're making it with a raw interior, don't dress the cooked tuna until you are ready to serve it, and reserve any leftover dressing. Store the tuna undressed, if you want leftovers. For mine, which was cooked all the way through, it was less of an issue, but head's up!

I added chopped scallions, more sliced avocado, and sprinkled with additional chili oil. I didn't bother with the red onions. I thought that a big handful of scallions was adequate for the onion flavor.

And here it is, my tower of Tuna Salad, ready to chill (it's great warm, but I preferred it chilled).

I really liked this. The dressing would be great with chicken, salmon, beef, tofu -- you name it. For those who gave it a try, thank you. Tuna isn't hard to make and it's easy to customize. In fact, I'd encourage you to cook a tuna steak and dress it as you would a traditional tuna salad. There is no comparison to the canned stuff.

About this challenge: The Barefoot Bloggers join forces and cook or bake recipes by Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten each month, chosen in order by members, and present them for discussion on two Thursdays each month. Hungry? Please join us at the table!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Banana Blueberry Breakfast Bread

Banana Blueberry Breakfast Bread. That's a lot of B's. This bread was totally worth the experiment it involved.

I started with my standard breakfast bun recipe which I created with the Stealth Cinnamon Rolls from earlier this week. Since I halved that recipe, I was left with a half a box of yellow cake mix, and I wanted to see if my theory, that this recipe would make a great yeast bread, was a good one. It was. In fact, it made a better loaf bread than it did rolls.

When I made the cinnamon rolls, I didn't trust how "wet" the dough was and I added as much as an additional cup of flour to the "half" recipe, and the rolls, while still high and tasty, were somewhat dry and more bread than pastry-like. This time, I resisted the urge to add more flour and just let the wet dough raise on its own without my interference, and I'm glad I did. It turned out just fine, and was moister than the rolls.


This recipe is for ONE LOAF -- a half recipe.

1/2 box of yellow cake mix (no pudding in the mix)
1-1/4 cup of warm water
1 package of yeast
3 cups of flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Allow to double in volume. Punch down, and stir in any mix-ins, or, roll out on a chopping board, layer toppings, and roll up. Add to a buttered loaf pan, allow to double in volume again, and bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees.

For this variation of the basic bread, I used my bread machine to mix the dough, only. At the "fruit and nut beep" I added 2 big handfuls of Trader Joe's Freeze Dried Blueberries, and 1 big handful of Trader Joe's Freeze Dried Banana Slices, and 1 big handful of chopped walnuts. I crushed more dried blueberries for the top of the loaf (which was really pretty, like painting with water colors). I then took it out of the machine and kneaded and raised it myself, in a loaf pan, before baking.

This particular loaf would have tasted great with a lemon cake mix, but I was using up the 1/2 box left from the cinnamon rolls. I let the loaf raise, baked it off, and sliced. It was just perfect. This bread is not "too too" sweet, it's closer to Hawaiian Sweet Bread. It made EXCELLENT toast -- really superb toast, in fact. 

As pictured, though, I've spread some Lemon Quark on a slice, which was also top notch. Quark is a much lower fat and creamier, lighter version of ricotta or mascarpone.  Many compare quark to cream cheese but quark is much "fluffier."  I get mine from a Farmer's Market in both Vanilla and Lemon flavors. Lemon Quark on Blueberry Banana Bread Toast was really fantastic.  

I buy mine from Spring Hill Cheese Company based in Petaluma, California, which sells it at Farmer's Markets, but it looks like you can get it mail order -- which has to be a little costly because it's perishable -- but if you have to go through life without trying their Vanilla Bean or Lemon Quark, it just may be a sacrifice you have to make.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Stealth Cinnamon Rolls

I'm calling these Stealth Cinnamon Rolls because I'll bet you don't realize you've got every single ingredient for these, in your pantry, most of the time. I saw the recipe and thought "You know, I could make those right now!" and I did. The concept is interesting, and I immediately thought of several variations on the theme, as shown below.


  • 1 box of yellow cake mix (no pudding in the mix)
  • 2.5 cups of warm water
  • 2 packages of yeast
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 5 cups AP flour

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Allow to rest and raise, doubling in size, for approximately 1 hour. Roll out, spread thickly with butter, and sprinkle thickly with cinnamon and sugar. Roll up on the long edge, cut into 1 inch spiral rolls, and set in pan, or in muffin pans. Allow to raise a second time, approximately 1 hour. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Ice with glaze of your choice.

I halved this recipe, and found the dough so sticky, I kept adding more flour to get it to come together in a soft ball. As much as a cup more flour than I thought. I think may have lead to the rolls being more bread and less pastry like, but they were still soft and tasty. Next time, I'll trust the sticky dough and leave it alone. Still it was so simple. I added ground vanilla powder to the cinnamon sugar mixture, but not nearly enough butter -- they were cooked perfectly throughout, but I like a bit more moisture in the rolls, so next time I'd use more butter and maybe bake them 5 minutes less. Otherwise, they rose high and light. HALF of this recipe made a full 13x9 pan, so if you used the recipe as written, you'd get a bunch of rolls for sure.


Red Velvet Cake Mix + Cream Cheese Filling

Chocolate Cake Mix + Coconut Pecan Nutella Filling

Lemon Cake Mix + Citrus or Coconut Filling, or Blueberry or Poppyseed

Spice Cake Mix + Nut Filling

Carrot Cake Mix + Cream Cheese Filling

White Cake Mix + Almond Extract + Chopped Cherry Filling

Ooh, the possibilities of fast breakfast rolls!