Sunday, June 23, 2013

Last day of school 2013

Adelaide finished kindergarten and Arabella finished her 3 year old year of preschool.  We are all thrilled it's summer break now.  They've grown so much.  Check out Addie and Bella's first days in comparison to the last.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

breakfast for dessert

Ashlynn going for the pudding!

I didn't realize how often I turn a breakfast foods into dessert until I sat back and thought about the most recent three desserts I made.  Coffee vanilla bean ice cream, bacon and browned butter chocolate chip cookies and blueberry white chocolate bread pudding.  Coffee-bacon-eggs.  Sounds like breakfast to me!  But just as delicious, possibly more so, as dessert.  Are you ready for this?

Coffee Vanilla ice cream.
Most coffee ice creams ask you to dissolve espresso powder into your liquid mixture.  The steeping method by David Lebovitz is really the only way to make amazingly flavorful coffee ice cream with quality coffee beans.  Using sub-par espresso powder in the birthplace of coffee seams ridiculous.

2 cups quality whole bean coffee beans
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 whole vanilla bean (or extract)
2 eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar

In the top of a double boiler pour the cream and milk and coffee beans.  Add the vanilla bean after scraping out the bean paste and adding it to the cream mixture.  Cook over medium heat until the cream is hot to touch. Remove, stir and cover for 2 hours letting the coffee beans steep in the cream mixture.

While the cream is steeping, bet two eggs until foamy.  Add the sugar a quarter of a cup at a time.  Whisking with each addition.  When the cream mixture has steeped for 2 hours, strain the mixture into the egg/sugar mixture.  Whisk to combine and refrigerate overnight or for at least 6 hours.  Freeze in your ice cream maker and add mini chocolate chips after churned.

Bacon browned butter chocolate chip cookies (the ultimate cookie)
6 slices bacon
2 Tbsp brown sugar for bacon rub
1 cup plus 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar (minus 1 Tbsp for high altitude)
2 eggs plus one yolk
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
3 cups flour (add 3 Tbsp for high altitude)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda (1/4 tsp for high altitude)
2 cups chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Lay bacon out on a foil lined baking sheet.  Rub a small amount of brown sugar on each strip of bacon and bake until crispy about 10 minutes.  Remove and cool then crumble with hands or a food processor.  Set aside.

Brown the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  The butter will melt and sizzle and pop.  It will bubble.  As the bubbling ceases the butter will start to foam.  Stir to watch the liquid butter underneath turn from a yellow liquid to a light brown color.  The butter will smell nutty.  Remove and pour in a heat safe measuring cup.  The butter should now be 8 ounces or 1 cup of liquid butter.  Let cool.

In a stand mixer combine the browned butter and sugars.  Add the eggs and yolk one at a time, mixing after each one.  Add the vanilla.  In a separate bowl mix together the dry ingredients and add it to the stand mixer bowl with sugar mixture.  Combine and add chocolate chips and crumbled bacon.  Form 18-20 balls of dough and place on a cookie sheet.  Refrigerate  for 20 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake cookies for 16-18 minutes.

Blueberry white chocolate bread pudding with white chocolate rum sauce
2 1/2 cups torn bread pieces
1 cup dried or fresh blueberries (cranberries/cherries/raisins)
1 cup white chocolate chips
4 eggs
2 cups milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
dash salt
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a 8x8 inch square baking dish or a similar sized casserole pan place the bread, berries and white chocolate chips.  In a separate bowl mix the remaining ingredients.  Make sure you whisk the eggs well.  Pour mixture over the bread.  Bake in a water bath for 50-60 minutes.  For the first 30 minutes bake with foil covering the pan.  Then remove and allow the bread pudding to cook uncovered.  Bread pudding will still be soft and gooey in the very middle but the eggs will have cooked.  No one likes dry bread pudding but you also don't want it too runny.

White chocolate rum sauce.
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
3/4 cup cream
1 Tbsp dark rum

Warm the cream in the microwave and then pour over the white chocolate chips.  Allow the chips to melt and whisk together.  Add the rum and stir.  Serve warm or room temperature with the bread pudding.

This sauce turns a rustic bread pudding into the sort of dessert you can serve for a dinner party. It's especially nice poured around the bread pudding in a slightly recessed plate so pudding sits in a little pool.

Friday, June 7, 2013

wrapping things up

I've had the most amazing time taking photographs for Salem's Ethiopia.  It's a project I only imagined ever having the chance to do.  Sadly, the project is wrapping up for me.  I've taken hundreds and hundreds of photos. A selection of them are in a "look book" I designed.  Recently, the photographs were also used in a new flyer for Salem's to hand out to customers during bazaars.  It's extremely exciting to see my photographs in a flyer or book that people will flip through.

I think I'm most sad about not having an excuse to pop over to the shop and nose around into the gorgeous work that is being done there.  Every time I go, there is some new bright colorful pile of yarn or hand dying project that inspires me to take a photo.  I love all the color.  It's mesmerizing.

Here are a few of the photographs I've taken at Salem's that were not purchased by the client or used in any project.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

arugula topped pesto pizza

I am a huge arugula fan but it's almost never available here in Addis Ababa.  I couldn't contain my excitement the other day when I was browsing the herb bin at my local grocery store and picked up a different looking leafy green.  When I smelled it and realized it was little bunches of arugula, I snatched up the the last of it and hurried away from the area, in case anyone was going to try to wrestle me for those last bunches of deliciousness.

My plans for this arugula were pretty straight forward.  Bleach it, wash it, and throw it on top of pizza.  The spicy nutty flavor of the arugula was the perfect thing for my whole wheat crust, mozzarella and pesto topped pizza.  My garlic parsley pesto added so much flavor, that no other topping was needed.  Plus, then the arugula could stand out as the center stage ingredient.  I grated a bit of real Parmesan Romano on top and ta da...dinner!  (Just to be super transparent here-Justin and I devoured this pizza.  The girls had boring cheese pizza-there is no way I could ever convince my children to eat "salad" on pizza).

I can't help but be jealous of anyone who can eat arugula whenever they want!  If you have access to this flavorful green, try it on your next homemade pizza.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

food inspiration

cookie selection by Ladytroupe Sweets

Over the past few weeks I've accumulated a few new recipes, ideas, inspiration that I'd like to share.

Inspirational websites
I met a lovely new friend this past weekend.  We immediately hit it off because she started asking for ideas for dinner inspiration and had lots to offer herself.  She loves talking about cooking and food and well, so do I.  She introduced me to and I became an instant fan.  There are a million unique recipes and everyone of them seems to have a neat twist to the ordinary. Check out the selection of soup recipes.  Gawd I love soup!

Favorite new recipes
Speaking of soup, I have a new favorite squash soup recipe.  It's delicious and super easy.  I know this seems like more of a Fall recipe but keep in mind the weather is gradually getting chillier in the evening and rainy season will quickly be upon us here in Ethiopia.  Squash soup is totally appropriate in my world.

Sara's Roasted Garlic Brown Butter Squash Soup
2-3 cups thoroughly soft roasted squash (I like to roast my squash whole in a 375 degree oven for an hour or more until it's really soft)
1 head of garlic
Olive oil
Dried thyme
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup finely chopped white onions
1/4 cup flour
2 nine ounce cans chicken broth or about 2 1/4 cups homemade broth
2 cups water
Salt and pepper

While you are roasting the squash, cut the tips off the head of garlic, drizzle the entire thing with olive oil and sprinkle with thyme.  Wrap it in aluminum foil and roast with the squash for almost an hour.  Squeeze out the soft roasted garlic cloves and set aside

In a soup pot melt the butter on medium heat and continue to cook until the butter is browned and smells nutty.  The butter will sizzle when melting as all the water is evaporated.  When the butter stops sizzling and popping the butter is almost browned.  Watch very carefully so you don't burn it.  When the butter smells nutty add the onions and saute until soft.  About 4 minutes.  Add a large pinch of salt at this point to sweat the onions.  Add the flour and stir.  Cook on medium heat for an additional few minutes until the flour is a light brown color.  Slowly add the chicken broth and whisk so it doesn't clump.  Cook until the mixture is thickening and bubbly.  Add the roasted squash and garlic as well as the water.  Simmer on medium low for 20 minutes, stirring frequently.  Using a small hand held strainer, remove the large chunks in the soup and transfer to a food processor or blender.  Puree the chunks and return to the soup pot.  Stir and add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with homemade croutons or rolls.  Ashlynn was in love with this soup! The older two girls gobbled down bowls of this with toast.

I have to say, I wish the browned butter flavor was a bit heavier in this soup.  The roasted garlic and squash definitely play bigger flavor roles.  I love browned butter but I can't bring myself to use more than a quarter of a cup in a soup recipe.  Adding more butter than that would make it too high in fat for my liking.

Inspirational cookbooks
Last week my new copy of The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz arrived in the mail and I instantly curled up on the couch and devoured every recipe.  The book is packed with a huge selection of ice creams, gelatos, granitas and yogurts.  I make a lot of ice cream at home!  Every week I am so busy with ice cream orders I have to plot out my ice cream machine's daily work.  I have a few tried and true recipes that I tinker with for my favorite flavors.  But this recipe book is for my private ice cream experimentation.  I am especially intrigued my the honey lavender ice cream, mojito sorbet and rice pudding gelato.  Plus I know one of my very best friends is going to flip when I tell her I may just have the coconut ice cream recipe she's been waiting to taste (reminiscent of Antonio's coconut ice cream in the Philippines).  David Lebovitz "marbles"-as he calls it, coconut ice cream with a mango sorbet.  Perfection.

Favorite new ideas
I have a grown up dinner party menu swirling around in my head.  Okay, not the entire menu, but definitely dessert.  I can't decide on the following for the dessert course.  Maybe you can help me decide.

Ricotta lime filled fried crepes with blueberry frozen yogurt
Fried ice cream (Filipino style): coconut ice cream balls that have been rolled in toasted coconut and then topped with mango rum sauce.
Soft ginger cookies sandwiching creamy lemon ice cream with the edges rolled in a crystallized ginger dust.
buttermilk roast chicken

Old websites-new ideas
I've become the type of cook who varies the dinner menu so frequently, we rarely eat the same meal in a month (unless it's pizza-I love homemade pizza).  Once in awhile I'll find a new recipe that I must do over again the very next week but more often than not, I'm filing through my recipes and pulling things out of my repertoire that I haven't done in a few weeks.  It keeps things fresh and I don't get tired of cooking dinner when it's something new.  With all the birthday party planning that requires cooking in large amounts, I've been feeling a little burnt out when it comes to picking dinner to prepare each night.  Every time I start to feel this way, I go to Smitten Kitchen and type in an ingredient to Deb's search tool and see what pops up to catch my eye.  More often than not, something does-catch my eye- and I instantly feel more energized for dinner.  Smitten Kitchen's Buttermilk Roast Chicken did the trick the other night.  It's such a simple recipe and really yields a flavorful meal.  I didn't happen to have fresh buttermilk on hand so I used my powdered.  Keeping powdered buttermilk in my pantry has opened up an entirely new selection of cake recipes I can create and now I can use it for roasting chicken.  I can't say enough good things about Smitten Kitchen.
mini apple streusel pies

Inspirational party planning
I'm co hosting a baby shower for a friend in a few months. She's having her third child, a little boy and I am super excited to perfect the dessert table.  I have this lovely shower in mind as inspiration.  One thing I've decided that will most definitely be on the menu are French macaroons.  The lightest hue of blue with luscious filling.  I'm terrible with coordinating games and such for showers.  Can you share any ideas?

I make a lot of homemade lemonade and my favorite new combination is honey rosemary infused lemonade.  I simply make my basic lemonade and then add honey and a branch of fresh rosemary to the mason jar.  Two days later the rosemary adds a hint of herbal flavor. If you want your rosemary more front and center, just puree a small amount and mix it in the lemonade.  I always use fresh squeezed lemon juice and a simple syrup (1:1 sugar water) for sweetening it.  I think the tartness or sweetness of lemonade is a personal preference.  I tend to vary mine quite a bit depending on the audience.  If I'm making it for my family I try to skimp on the sugar and add strawberry puree or honey instead.  Do you make homemade lemonades or teas?  If so, what variations do you like?

What inspires you lately, in the kitchen or elsewhere in your home?  I'd love to know!

Monday, June 3, 2013

St. George

I can't believe I haven't blogged about this but we rescued a local puppy.  St. George (George or Georgie for short) came to live with us when he was eight weeks old.  He was a tiny little blonde fluff ball back then and while he's only been living with us a little more than a month it's like he's always been apart of our family.

We adopted Lucy when she was 9 months old and miraculously, she was fully trained upon her arrival.  We've never had to train a puppy.  Surprisingly, the hard part is not getting him to understand he needs to poo and pee outside; it's really having the time to devote to making sure I see that he needs to go outside.
George at 8 weeks

We've had a few puddles at the front door and in the first few days (and even now once in awhile) dog piles behind chairs.  He's at the biting stage now so we are trying to redirect his biting to some of the numerous toys that lie around and no one really loves but we just haven't thrown away yet.  So far there hasn't been anything too amazing he's chewed through, unless you count the phone cord for our internet last week.  But he's a good pup and Lucy and him like to play and have even started snuggling in for naps together.  The girls adore George.  Ashlynn and him seem to have an extra sweet little bond.  It's really quite amazing how quickly he's latched onto our family as his own.  I guess it helps that we immediately loved him too!

George at 16 weeks

digging deeper for this one...but not too deep

I've done so little writing about anything deeper than what's been cooking in my kitchen lately that I'm afraid I've lost a little of the feeling in the blog.  I've been very busy with Ladytroupe Sweets lately and it has left little time for me to sit and blog about much.

So the truth is that Ethiopia has changed in status from "new country we live in" to "home" and this is a good thing.  We're just living here now so there isn't as many exciting ideas to blog about as the first 12 months when everything we did is brand new and blog worthy.  We revisit our favorite restaurants and day drives.  We hike Entoto and attend birthday parties and school events.  I'm making grocery lists for my driver and checking out new vegetable stands every week.  The girls are coming home to run in the garden and play with the dogs.  Ethiopia has become our comfortable home now.  We love the slow-paced lifestyle that Addis Ababa allows us.  This is mostly because there aren't a lot of options for families on the weekends.  We end up spending a lot of wonderful time just being together and lounging in the sun reading while the kids play.

We've finished our spring birthday celebration series.  Addie's 6th birthday party was this past Saturday and I have a few months to relax before the next party.  It's a lot of work but so much fun.  Now, I have some extra time to try out some new recipes I've been collecting and tie up some loose ends with my photography projects with clients.  School is out in 2 weeks and from there we are going to take a family vacation for a few weeks.  We are very much looking forward to this trip.

This is officially the time of year when I feel a bit antsy and tired at the same time.  Addis Ababa has it's ups and downs when it comes to daily life and errands.  While Addis has become "home" for us, we are constantly reminded of our friends and family in the States (which is truly home) and sometimes we feel a longing for the home we imagine for our family there.  It's an interesting balance between loving our home we currently have in the country where we currently reside and missing a home in the US that doesn't exist yet.

I hesitate to complain on the blog about the things we find challenging here but the truth is that sometimes the dirty city with all the wild streets full of darting pedestrians and lined with corrugated metal store fronts feels like it's closing in on us.  Like we might be consumed by the bustling city.  We are feeling the need to turn on the tap water and gulp down luscious glasses of clean potable water.  I know it's silly but I desperately want to pay money for milk by the gallon!  I'm dying to browse a book store.  These are all things that indicate at this time of the year (and about half way through our time in any country) that it's time to take a vacation and regroup so we can return "home" to Addis with clear heads and a plan for the remaining 12 months.  

Luckily the weather here is just glorious.  The sun is warm and shines bright during the day.  Burst of rain clouds come through and kill the mosquitoes and clear the smog from the sky.  We race around the yard picking up discarded t-shirts and books before the thunder storm hits and then we all stand huddled at the front door in awe of the heavy rain and hail that falls in buckets where just moments before there was sunshine.  The sun here in Addis always returns and gives us an endless supply of hope!  I wonder if Ethiopians feel the same way about the sun here.  It's truly one of the most amazing things about this country.

I guess all that babbling was to say that I'm happy.  The girls are happy.  The man of the house is happy here in Ethiopia.  But it's time to take a family trip to leave some of our frustrations behind for a short time so that we can be better prepared to deal with them for our final year here in Addis.