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Megans Cookin: June 2008

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Danish Braids

It's Daring Bakers Time. This months challenge was danish pastry. This is the kind of recipe that I would of normally just passed on by. That's what I love about the Daring Bakers. They push me beyond my own limitations. I would of never made a Lemon Meringue pie, or a Bostini, or even Julie Child's French Bread, but that's whats so neat. It's the limitations I set on my self that are chaining me down. And the Daring Bakers challenge me to do more, to do better. They are a virtual kick in the butt. And each month that butt seems to get just a little bit bigger.

I had a few berries on hand so I decided on raspberry and cream cheese. So I threw some in a pot and thought I would cook them down a bit and sweeten them up a little with some vanilla sugar. I added a few blackberries for good measure.I only used some of the berries and used the rest on a tart that I made and on my breakfast. Yogurt and berries are one of my favorite breakfasts.

So I thought all was good and my jam was wonderful. (note to self: Make Raspberry Jam) I put it in a jelly jar and let it cool in the fridge. I made my dough, wrapped it, and put it in the fridge for it's 30 minute chill time. I turn around to start cleaning my work station and this is what I see.

The Orange Juice. I forgot the orange juice. And it's to late now. Stupid Stupid, Stupid!!! I couldn't believe it. But what ya gonna do? I had to just go with it. I couldn't add the juice at this stage of the game. But I lost a bit of my gumption. And I couldn't quit kicking myself. Stupid indeed.

The dough has to be rolled out and a butter block (butter and flour)is spread on 2/3 of the dough. Then you fold it like a business letter. The right third over the center third and then the left third over the middle third. That is considered a turn and you do that 4 times with 30 minutes of chilling in between. Time consuming? Yes. Hard? Not unless you forget to put your OJ in it. Oh, sorry. I'll try to keep the attitude out of it.
So after 4 sessions with the rolling pin, was time to fill my braid. I was so excited that I went barreling forward without thinking. I cut my dough and I spread a layer of cream cheese on half, because a certain someone kept wrinkling her nose at the cream cheese. Geez, kids.
Then it was time for the raspberry jam. There wasn't enough jam. I should have used alot more berries. But they were all gone at this point. So I sliced up some fresh apricots.

But remember I told you I went barreling through. I again didn't stop to think. My filled braid was still on the pastry cloth and not on the baking sheet. It was a little hard to move. (Imagine more air being let out of my balloon.)

But I baked it and It tasted great. I loved the orange and cardamon flavor in the dough.
By this point I decided to forgo the icing and I just let it be eaten. It was definitely tasty. Maybe not necessarily flaky but it was good. A few days later I rolled out the remaining dough and just filled it with canned apple pie filling. The air was pretty much out of my balloon.

During the next week my balloon was refreshed. I am a Daring Baker! I will try again. Actually, I had a bible study coming up and I thought I could take a Danish Braid to it. I still had everything I needed on hand including the stuff to make the apple filling that was suggested.

I sauteed my apples and made a quite tasty apple filling.

I made my dough and I didn't forget the OJ! Sure makes for a smother, more pliable dough.

Go figure.

I rolled and did 4 turns of the dough.

I shaped it, filled it, and baked it.

Then drizzled an almond glaze over the top and sprinkled sliced almonds on top. After I was finished, it occurred to me that I should of probably toasted them. But I was very happy with my end result.

A sneak peak at all that goodness!

I made a few little Cinnamon sugar pastries with the scraps from the braid. They are encouraging me to make little danishes with the last of the dough in my freezer. Yes, I still have some left. I'm packing it up with my rolling pin and taking it camping with us next week. Just because I'm camping doesn't mean I cant eat good.

Thank you to Kelly of Sass and Veracity and Ben of What's cooking? for hosting this months Daring Bakers challenge and picking such a wonderful recipe. Or should I say, "Thanks for the kick in the butt this month. It was a blast!"
If you would like the recipe, go to one of our host's site. It will be there in all it's glory!
Previous Daring Baker Challenges:



Friday, June 27, 2008

The Besy Snickerdoodles I Ever Made!


actually, ...

There the only ones I've ever made.

Darling Daughter gives Them a Thumbs up!

I almost past on this months Cookie Carnival partly because I didn't think we were a snickerdoodle family and because Kellie (above, how cute is she?) is going on a camping trip and she wanted to take homemade Biscotti. We are definitely a Biscotti kind of family. So Biscotti it was.


Until I showed her a picture of April's snickerdoodles. All of a sudden, before my eye's, we became a snickerdoodle family.

These cookies were so soft and chewy. I'm eating one right now for breakfast research. When I asked the hubby for his opinion, he said "Mmmm, there so chewy and, and, Mmmmm!"

That's a thumbs up!

Who knew we were snickerdoodlers? They're so soft and chewy.

" To go"

We have them all packed to go camping, but they still have to make it through one more day.

Will they make it to the camping trip?

Did I tell you how soft and chewy they are?


Makes 4 dozen.
* 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
* 1/2 cup pure vegetable shortening
* 1 3/4 cups sugar, plus more if needed
* 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, plus more if needed
* 2 large eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, with one rack in top third and one rack in bottom third of oven. Line baking sheets with Silpat baking mats or parchment paper; set aside.
2. Sift together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine butter, shortening, and 1 1/2 cups sugar. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add eggs, and beat to combine. Add dry ingredients, and beat to combine.
3. In a small bowl, combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar


More cookie recipes

Blueberry Drop Cookies

Cinnaspin cookie

Vanilla Bean Thins

Chocolate shortbread Ole"

Chocolate and Raspberry dream Bars


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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Parmesan Chicken

It's time for the Barefoot Bloggers and this weeks recipe was chose by Megan of My Baking Adventure.
This is a great recipe using ingredients I know I always have on hand. In fact it's so easy, I only had to read the recipe once. The only changes I made were using egg substitute instead of whole eggs. I didn't serve it with the salad so I didn't make the vinaigrette. I served mine with fresh roasted potatoes from the farmers market.

I recommend you check out the other Barefoot Bloggers and their website. Maybe it will encourage you to become a Barefoot Blogger!!!



Tomorrow is the last day to sign-up for the *Taste Like Home* local goodie swap. If your interested, e-mail April or myself and let's get you signed up!

Want to know who else is participating?
Check it out here!


Parmesan Chicken
By Ina Garten

4 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 extra-large eggs
1 tablespoon water
1 1/4 cups seasoned dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
Unsalted butter
Good olive oil
Salad greens for 6, washed and spun dry
1 recipe Lemon Vinaigrette, recipe follows

Pound the chicken breasts until they are 1/4-inch thick. .
Combine the flour, salt, and pepper on a dinner plate.

On a second plate, beat the eggs with 1 tablespoon of water.

On a third plate, combine the bread crumbs and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan. Coat the chicken on both sides with the flour mixture, then dip into the egg mixture and dredge in the bread-crumb mixture, pressing lightly.

Heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan and cook 2 or 3 chicken breasts on medium-low heat for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until cooked through. Add more butter and oil and cook the rest of the chicken breasts.

Toss the salad greens with lemon vinaigrette. Place a mound of salad on each hot chicken breast. Serve with extra grated Parmesan.

Lemon Vinaigrette:

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Yield: 6 servings


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Monday, June 23, 2008

Chocolate Covered Cherry Cupcakes on a Smokey Day

Northern California is on fire. We had an electrical storm last weekend and it has set more that 800 fires in Northern Calif.. More then 100 of those fires are in Shasta County. That's were I live. Many of those fires aren't even manned because resources are spread so thin. The air is thick with smoke and there is a thin layer of ash covering everything.

With air quality warnings in effect, it was a good day to stay in doors. So when my daughter asked to make a cake, I talked her into cupcakes. And to clean out the pantry, she used a can of Cherries and a boxed cake mix. But you could make your own cake batter, if that is more your style. For a 13 year old in my kitchen, were staying with the box of mix!

She made the cake mix, drained the cherries, and divided them between the cupcakes.

Then covered with chocolate batter.

Baked and frosted with an almond buttercream.

I was going to let her use a pastry bag and a large tip to make beautiful swirls of frosting on the cupcakes, but, my tip got gobbled up by the darn garbage disposal.
Yea... I kind of need to replace that!

They're expecting more thunderstorms this weekend.
God Bless the firefighter!!!


Friday, June 20, 2008

Taste of Home

Sign-ups closed

One more week left to sign up for the *Taste of Home* Local Goodie Swap! If your interested, details are here.
Sign-ups open until June 27th.

Thanks to the people of the blogs below for participating. If you signed-up, and your name is not below, Please let me know. I hope I didn't miss anyone!

Brown interior Arcata, Ca

Sleepenbear in the kitchen Pennsylvania

Columbus foodie Columbus, Ohio

Always Ina Long Beach, Ca

Lori's Lipsmacking Goodness Rochester NY.

Gumbeaux in the Kitchen San Diego, Ca.

Aprils home cooking Santa Cruz, Ca.

Mitmoi Durham,NC.

Cleaverness in Progress Chicago, Il.

Confessions of a former hot girl WA.and OK.

So...What else, What else, What else? Chicago Il.

Megans cookin Redding, Ca.

Abby Sweets Knoxville, Tn.

My Sweet Cupcakes Paris, Ontario Canada

I'm running to eat Terre Haute, In.

A Fridge Full of Food Springfield, Missouri

Michelle in Colorado Springs Co.

Stephchows Rochester,NY

The Clean Plate Club Lee MA.

Love Sweet Love Stillwater, OK

Cilantro and Lime

Cupcake Muffin Berkeley, Ca

Warm Olives Sac, Ca.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Homemade Hamburger Buns

With Father's Day behind up, it's time to gear up into full summer swing. With the price of gas, we'll be hanging around the house just a little bit more. O.K. maybe alot more. Whiskeytown Lake may be only 10 miles away but the beach is 20. That use to be not so bad but with gas at $4.57 a gallon, that round trip to the lake is 40 miles. My hubby also takes the car a few days a week so I'm left with the deisel truck . I don't think so!

But with the dog days of summer upon us and temperatures soaring over the 100's, it's hanging out by the pool for us.

I don't have to tell you about the price of everything going up. Just at Costco the other day, I saw my favorite bread, Milton's Multi Grain. I'll give ya that the loaves were huge, BUT, It was over $8.oo for 2 loaves. OUCH!

I was reading one of my favorite blogs the other day, and I saw Marye had a recipe for homemade hamburger buns! Here again, if I buy the buns I like, were talking over $3 bucks. Oh sure, at Winco I can get them for what, 69 cents? But my hamburger doesn't fit right and I don't really care for those cheep buns.

I had everything I needed on hand. Except my yeast wasn't instant. O-well, use what you got! I had regular yeast and it was fine. I made 12 buns for practically nothing. 3 of them I put sesame seeds on, 3 has course sea salt, and 6 were left plain.

The hubby requested BBQ chicken sandwiches for Father's Day.

And for lunch the next day? Roast beef sandwiches.

These were ready in less then an hour. I used my KA mixer and it took less then 10 minutes for it to come together. I even let the machine do the kneading. So simple!

Homemade beats store bought any day!

Home made Hamburger Buns

1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup unsalted butter
4 1/2 cups flour (unbleached, whole wheat, or a mix)I used all purpose
1 package instant yeast (I used regular)
1 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Dry onion soup mix if you want an onion roll
1 egg, room temperature

Heat the milk, water, honey and butter until butter is melted. Let cool to 120F. Carefully beat in egg.

Mix 2 cups of the flour, yeast, and salt. (and onion soup mix is your using it)

Mix into the flour mixture.

Stir in the rest of the flour, 1/2 cup at a time. Beat well after each addition.

When the dough pulls together, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. This should take about 5 minutes.(I let the KA do the work)

Divide dough into 12 equal pieces. Shape into smooth balls, flatten slightly, and place on a silpat covered baking sheet.

Brush with an egg wash and sprinkle with poppy seeds, sea salt, or whatever fancies you!

Let rise for 30 to 35 minutes. When buns have almost doubled bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.

More Bread Recipes

French Bread

Potato bread

Garlic Monkey Bread



Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Berry Happy Day!

Happy Father's Day Rich!

I hope it's a great day for everyone, where ever you are and what ever your doing. Here at the Pires household, It's a BBQ and dessert. Maybe a present or two!

This is my favorite (Pillsbury) Baked crust brushed with melted chocolate, filled with Dorie Greenspan's pastry cream. A crown of fresh berries top this easy tart with a glazing of raspberry jam. Refreshing and simple.

And a happy day it is!

I was so bummed when we heard of the closure of Tastespotting. For those of you who don't know about Tastespotting, it was basically a food porn site. A place you could go to drool over great food and find great new blogs.It was also a great way to generate traffic to your blog.

I just found a new site called Food Gawker
Chuck from Sunday Night Dinner stepped up to the plate and cloned Tastespotting!!!

All is well in my world again.

The Pastry Cream
makes about 2 cups

2 cups whole milk
1 plump, moist vanilla been, split and scraped
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
3 1/2 tablespoons (1 3/4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 3 pats

1. Bring the milk and vanilla bean (pulp and pod) to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cover the pan, turn off the heat, and allow the milk to infuse for at least 10 minutes or for up to 1 hour.
2. If the milk has cooled, it will need to be reheated now.
3. Whisk the yolks, sugar, and cornstarch together in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. Whisking constantly, drizzle one-quarter of the hot milk over the yolks. When the yolks are warm, whisk the remainder of the milk into the yolks in a steadier stream; remove and discard the pod (or save it to make vanilla sugar).
4. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, bring the mixture to the boil. Keep at the boil—still whisking energetically—for 1 to 2 minutes before pulling the pan from the heat and pressing the cream through a sieve into the small bowl. Let the cream sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the butter. Cover the cream with a piece of plastic wrap—press the wrap against the cream—and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. You can speed up the chill by putting the bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water. (Keeping: Covered tightly with plastic wrap, pastry cream can be refrigerated for 2 days. To smooth the chilled cream, whisk it for a few seconds.)

Dont forget to sign up for *Taste Like Home* goodie swap.
Sign ups end June 27th



Friday, June 13, 2008

Pasta, Pesto, and Peas

Day late and a pasta short. I signed up to be a Barefoot Blogger! We're a group of bloggers cooking our way through Ina Garten's cookbook Barefoot contessa. This recipe was chosen by Elizabeth from Ugg smell food. I was suppose to post this on the 2nd Thursday of the month. Oops! Day late.

This is the second recipe the group has done so I'm in from almost the beginning. I missed Baked eggs. I'll have to make up for that, maybe for fathers day breakfast. They looked fabulous.

Anyway, back to the pasta. It called for bow tie pasta and fusilli pasta. I didn't have any bow tie so I skipped it. A pasta short!

I also couldn't justify buying the basil (it was more expensive then the the pesto) so I bought pesto. I used half the pesto and half the mayo that the recipe called for. You would of never missed it, if I didn't tell you. That made this a quick and easy side dish.

Perfect with grilled chicken or a burger, this was a refreshing summer pasta salad. Give it a try, you'll be glad you did. Trust me!



3/4 pound fusilli pasta
3/4 pound bow tie pasta
1/4 cup good olive oil (I omitted)
1 1/2 cups pesto, packaged or see recipe below(I used 3/4 cup)
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/4 cups good mayonnaise (I used 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, defrosted
1/3 cup pignolis (pine nuts)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cook the fusilli and bow ties separately in a large pot of boiling salted water for 10 to 12 minutes until each pasta is al dente. Drain and cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree the pesto, spinach, and lemon juice. Add the pesto mixture to the cooled pasta and then add the Parmesan, peas, pignolis, salt, and pepper. Mix well, season to taste, and serve at room temperature.

1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup pignolis (pine nuts)
3 tablespoons chopped garlic (9 cloves)
5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups good olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Place the walnuts, pignolis, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 15 seconds. Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thoroughly pureed. Add the Parmesan and puree for a minute. Use right away or store the pesto in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin film of olive oil on top.

Air is the enemy of pesto. For freezing, pack it in containers with a film of oil or plastic wrap directly on top with the air pressed out.

To clean basil, remove the leaves, swirl them in a bowl of water, and then spin them very dry in a salad spinner. Store them in a closed plastic bag with a slightly damp paper towel. As long as the leaves are dry they will stay green for several days.

Yield: 4 cups

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Chocolate and Vanilla

First for the chocolate! I was one of the lucky recipients of Amano Chocolate from Blake Makes. I received three bars in the mail and tucked them away for the perfect time. I wanted to do a chocolate tasting. Since I received different bars, I wanted to know the difference. First we checked out the Amano site and found a Chocolate Tasting Guide.

Opening our bars, we felt a little like we had just won a Willy Wonka Contest. The chocolate was wrapped in a beautiful gold foil. It looked decadent.

With our glass of water to cleanse our palate, and the T.V. turned off to prevent distraction, we were ready to taste.

The first one we tried was the Ocumare bar.

It's hard to let a piece of chocolate just melt on your tongue with out wanting to chew. But I resisted(most of the time). As it was melting, I felt like I had my nose in the box of cocoa. I thought of fudgy brownies. This was the very essence of chocolate.

The second bar was the Madagascar bar.

Right away we could tell it was a little sweeter. Maybe fruity is more the word I'm looking for. I just know that this would be the bar I would pick to go with a bottle of good red wine. It was my favorite!

The last bar was the Cuyagua *Limited Edition*

My husband said it was like green beans. He swears by his description. How can chocolate taste like green bean? I cant say that, but! I will give him earthy. It was definitely earthy. It was my least favorite of them all, but, come on, it's chocolate. It was still delicious.

A big thank you to Amano Chocolates and to Blake for the opportunity to taste this amazing chocolate. And if you want to buy some amazing quality chocolate, click here!

Now on to the vanilla.

I just wanted to show you my vanilla extract brewing. The big vodka bottle one was indeed made with cheep vodka. It started out crystal clear and now look at that color. It's a little darker then the Southern Comfort. It has been brewing for about 3 weeks.

I just added vanilla beans to the whisky today so that's it's natural color. I just found some brandy in the cupboard and I thought about starting a third bottle. I found some cute little bottles at World Market to package the extract in.

It's gonna be verry happy vanilla extract come Christmas.

Dont forget to enter out *Taste Like Home* goodie swap event!
Sign-ups close June 27th.

More chocolate recipes:
Dream Bars
Macaroon Bars
Mock Hostess Cupcakes
Chocolate Chili
Chocolate Chipotle Truffles


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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Taste Like Home

Sign-ups closed
Walking around the farmers market, I always see plenty of local area goodies. We have olive orchards and pecan orchards near by as well as honey, jams and spice blends. One of my favorite locals sells a killer mango chutney. When I look around, I see plenty of local staples that say *Taste like Home* to me.
We think these local treasures would be fun to share.

April from Abby Sweets and
Megan from Megan's cookin are hosting
a goodies exchange featuring

local area goodies.
If you would like to join us
in a local area goodies exchange,
send your name, mailing address, e-mail address, and
blog name and blog URL
to either april at
or to me at
Also let us know if you'll send internationally.
We will match up partners and have a
round up of the participating blogs.
We ask that you post about the goodies you receive
and include links back to
Sign-ups end June 27th.

So, what do you say?

Want to share your *Taste Like Home* with someone?


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