Thursday, January 26, 2012

Review of Ferran "The Inside Story Of El Bulli And The Man Who Reinvented Food By Colman Andrews

 Back in November, I was contacted by Penguin Group USA  and asked if I like to review a chef biography for my blog.I was quite apprehensive at first about accepting because it was my first company review and I've never read a biography before.So the subject matter sacred me off, but I thought about it and a took shot at it.So I hope everyone enjoys.

So here we go...

My honest opinion about the book is, it was a little hard to get through because I'm not one to read about chef's and restaurants.I'm more into books about food photography and recipes.

The writing wasn't really my cup of tea. I would say it was alright. It was somewhat slow and most of the time pretty dry. The worst part I would say is many times I would get confused to what is going on in the story because it would jump from topic to topic.It really lacked something to keep the reader entertained and absorbed into the biography. However don't get me wrong. Their were some really interesting and inspiring parts in this book despite its flaws.

What was interesting was learning about the intriguing, mysterious and creative man of Chef Ferran Adria.Also, learning about  how El Bulli restaurant came to be and how it transformed to what it is now. Those topics kept me reading even though it was a struggle.I really wish it was either written by a different author or Ferran himself.He's the only one that can really get his point across.
 What I really got from this biography is a man that loves to experiment and take risks.This the first time ever hearing or learning about Chef Ferran Adria.So I had no judgement towards him since I knew nothing till now. Throughout the book, you learn that many people boast about him, including the author himself.You read it a little to much to be honest. But once you get over that you learn that it is true.He has affected the world of food in a large way.He has created ideas and cooking methods that you and me may not even fully understand or be able to preform. Their are dishes that the author describes that are served at El Bulli that are completely bizarre, but creative genius.If you want to learn more about El Bulli and its new dramatic changes, check out their website. Here

However whats really interesting about him is not his skills, but learning who this man is. It's intriguing to read about, what he does in his spare time, learning about his personality and his creativity.I like reading about people's lives and how they have become who they are overtime. 

He's a passionate person like anyone that has something really important to them.I like learning what's behind the person and removing all the hype.I see him as a person and not just a high profile Chef.

This book isn't perfect by any means. The writing could be more entertaining and the chapters could be better organize and the book could be shorter.However it does get across in its own way how Ferran has changed the world of food and how he has become what he is now. All I can say is this book as  achieved teaching me who Chef Ferran is.

Anyways, I like to thank Penguin Group USA for offering me to review this book. I love to work with the company again in the future.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Delcious Blackberry Cobbler

I recently tried out another cobbler recipe, using the rest of my frozen local blackberries for the dessert.This recipe actually came out a lot different then most cobbler's I've seen. Most recipes Ive tried are with a thick fruit filling on the bottom with a pastry top;however this one has a cake-like breading at the bottom with a berry mixture sprinkled on top.So what you end up with is a topping rising in between the filling while showing off the beautiful berries. This idea is actually way more appealing to the eye, since you get to see the star of the show, the blackberries! Also with the berries on top you have flavor seeping into the breading instead of just the bottom.Genius! However if your someone that loves a pastry topping with their cobbler.Then check out this recipe. If your someone that likes to try new recipes and loves a cake-like topping, then stay right here.

Now this cobbler didn't disappoint, even when I had to change the recipe. The topping was thick and moist while slightly chewy.It absorbed the flavor of the berries very well. However the main attraction was the blackberries and with this dessert you can use fresh or frozen. Also, what is surprising and a big plus to the recipe is no other ingredients beside sugar and water are added to the berries. 

For my changes, I doubled the recipe for more servings and I got about 12+ serving ,small to medium. The only ingredient amount that I kept the same was the nutmeg and cinnamon. Also, for the water that is to be drizzled just before its ready to bake. I ended up putting less then a half a cup of water because I wasn't to sure if it be to liquidity. Since it's originally a recipe for blueberries and not blackberries.Big difference between them, especially water. However in the end I wish I did add more water to create more of a sauce.So I made sure to add in the the below recipe the original water amount and the double recipe amount.Your choice how much you really want to add.

 Also, if you someone that gets a lot of extra juice from your thawed berries.I recommend adding it to the cobbler and downsizing the water. Way more flavor from berry juice then water.Or you can add it on after as a thin sauce.Imagine it with whip cream or vanilla ice cream. So Good!

The berries were of course delicious.Very juicy and a great balance of sweetness and tart.The sugar also helped out any berry that was sour in the batch.A lot of flavor in these berries and they really didn't need much.The only thing that might turn off people is their are a lot of seed to these berries, but if no one has a problem then your in the clear.

Also, this cobbler keeps quite well. You can keep it in the fridge and it will only get better overtime.Because the flavor of the berries absorb into the topping. I made this cobbler on Sunday night and it lasted till Tuesday night.It probably would of been finished even faster if everyone here liked blackberries.Haha I had the last piece, it was really yummy!

This definitely was a experiment recipe and it turned out pretty well. I'm glad because I get to make this dessert at a dinner party, I'm helping out with this weekend.Only this time its going to be made with frozen wild berries. Hopefully everything turns out as well as it did this time or better.

Blackberry Cobbler
(Adapted From Company's Coming,Blueberry Cobbler)

120ml soft margarine (hard margarine/butter)
500ml all purpose flour
350 ml milk
60ml granulated sugar
20ml baking powder
10ml vanilla
2 ml cinnamon
1 ml nutmeg
1000ml Blackberries,Fresh Or Frozen(thawed)
60ml granulated sugar
Drizzle 2 tbsp of water

Melt margarine or butter.Pour into a greased shallow glass baking dish. 2 quart or 13x9 glass pan.Set aside.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, ground cinnamon and nutmeg.Stir with a wooden spoon.Add milk and vanilla.Stir.

Drop by tbsp/15ml over margarine.Creating cobbler stones.

Combine fresh or thawed blueberries and sugar in a medium sized bowl.Stir.

Sprinkle berries over flour mixture.Don't totally cover the dough.You want the dough to rise in between and become golden brown.

Drizzle with water. Do not stir. Bake at 350F for 40 - 45 minutes until bubbling and lightly browned.Serve warm. Serves 12+

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Delicious Simplistic Blueberry Cobbler + More News

Recently,I used up the last bag of the local blueberries that we froze.For the last of these delicious berries, I chose to make something I've never made before. What would be better? Then making blueberry cobbler.

I had lots of fun making this simple dessert and I was surprised how good it really was.Now I only wish I had some whip cream or vanilla ice cream at the time.The cobbler was especially good because the topping and filling harmonize with each other.

The topping was golden, puffed and crunchy on the outside while being soft and cake like in the center. It was mildly sweet with its rich moist texture.A couple ingredients were changed for this breading, in the fat content.Instead of butter and shortening I use lard to replace both.Even with this change I saw no distinct difference.The topping was basically a sponge for any liquid that came from the blueberries while the cornstarch helped create thickness in the filling.The topping definitely took over for texture while the filling was all about the flavor. 

The filling was really good and turned out really well, even with some ingredients eliminated for flavor. It wasn't overly sweet or sour.It had a good balance. The berries were plump and juicy while the sauce was thick.It had a really great deep purple color that made it really hard to wait and eat while cooling.

The only downsize to this recipe is if you use a ceramic casserole dish you will get less servings, but with a thicker berry filling. If you go with my idea, you will end up with more servings, but with a thinner berry filling. It really depends in what you like and sometimes you may want more cobbler topping to filling.Also, you have to take in consideration that there is a lot of liquid in fruit and it will elaborate and thickening while cooking.Beside those choices  this recipe is pretty simplistic and will impress any guest at a dinner party or just as a special dessert for yourself.

Also, during this week, I received a giveaway win of a homemade purple lavender crochet beanie with a black flower pin from MyHobbyShop.It's my favorite hat and it arrived just in time for when it really gets cold.But I'm glad that I can basically wear it all year round.Well maybe not summer time.Anyways, I'll be sure to get a picture of me wearing it sometime and post soon.

Blueberry Cobbler 
(Adapted From Blueberry Cobbler,Food Network Canada)

Yield: 8-12 

8 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (2 L)
1 cup sugar (250 ml)
2 tablespoons cornstarch (30 ml)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (2.5 ml)
3 cups all-purpose flour (750 ml)
3/4 teaspoon salt (4 ml)
1 tablespoon baking powder (15 ml)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda (4 ml)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and chilled (75 ml)
3 tablespoons vegetable shortening, chilled (45 ml)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (375 ml) 
(Buttermilk Replacement: 1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice in liquid measure and pour milk up to 1 1/2 cups.Let sit for 5- 10 minutes.)

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. 
  2. If using frozen blueberries,let thaw for 1-2 hours in large bowl at room temp.
  3. When blueberries are ready, add 3/4 cup granulated sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon.Toss with a spoon until ingredients are fully combined.
  4. Pour berries into a large deep ceramic casserole dish 9 x 13 inches/23 x 33 cm or a metal bar pan, 9x13inches.
  5. Bake the blueberries in preheated oven for 20 minutes, place cookie sheet under it to prevent spillage.
  6. Prepare cobbler topping.In a large bowl, mix flour,salt, baking powder, baking soda and 2 tbsp of sugar. Cut in the cold butter and shortening until it forms crumbs.
  7. Add the buttermilk and mix just until combined. Making Buttermilk:1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice in liquid measure and pour milk up to 1 1/2 cups.Let sit for 5-10 minutes.
  8. When blueberries are finished,remove from oven and top with cobbler dough. Covering surface with 4 inch/10 cm portions of the dough.
  9. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 2 tbsp of sugar and place in oven.
  10.  Bake the cobbler for 30 minutes until dough is golden brown and puffed.Remove from oven and slightly cool before serving.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Banana Chocolate Chip Cranberry Bars Recipe Review + More News!

Just recently I made a recipe to use up the Hershey Chipt Special Dark Chocolate Chips that I got in my winner's package.For this I didn't want to make any cookies, so I decided to make some bars.Now these aren't your regular bars you see that are usually layered, hard or crunchy.These are more of a cake like bar with multiple textures.They are very moist with array of chocolate chips and dried fruit  through out it. They actually remind me a lot of banana bread crossed with a muffin.I give 3 out of 3 for texture

There are also many flavors playing off each other in these bars.You have the banana flavor that the senses.The chocolate chips with their intense dark flavor along side the moist cake texture.Then you have the cranberries with a sweet and tart flavor. I also give 3 out of 3 for flavor!

The recipe I used is from one of my cookie books I purchased at my local used book store.It was really easy to follow and used simple ingredients. I actually adding ingredients and eliminated some to the recipe. I used my homemade brown sugar, overripe freezer bananas, dark chocolate chips,oats and dried cranberries.The time may also vary when these are done, especially on the kind of oven.I  still give 3 out 3 for the recipe directions.

I also tried out the product,PAM Baking Spray that I received in my baking package.I used it on this recipe to spray the bottom of the pan to prevent sticking and it definitely did its job.It was easy to use. All I had to do was pop off the top, shake well and spray in the upright position with a even layer.It worked really well except some chocolate chip sunk to the bottom and stuck to the pan.That wasn't a big deal to me, I'm just glad they were easy to pry out of the pan.The only draw back to Pam is its quite expensive. Sometimes its 5 dollars a spray can and I can easily use shortening or butter to grease a pan.However when its free I can't complain! Also I found out that my baking package was probably over 50 dollar average value.That's pretty awesome.

Also, in other news I received some goodies in the mail. I got these three lovely charm bracelets and my favorite is the crescent moon.Then I got this beautiful fiber scarf with multiple colors through out it.

Anyways, everyone have a great weekend! For me I'll be going to a friend's Epicure party on Sunday.Should be lots of fun and see some people I haven't talk to in a while. If you don't know what Epicure is? check out the link.They sale herb, spices, cookware and lots of other products.I thought I had to share about it since it has to do with food.

Banana Chocolate Chip Cranberry Bars (Adapted From Banana Chocolate Chip Bars, Favorite Cookie Recipes By Lou Seibert Pappas)

1/2 cup margarine or room temp butter
3/4 granulated sugar + 1/2 tbsp pure molasses ( or 3/4 cup brown sugar)
1 cup mashed bananas ( 2 ripe or overripe medium sized bananas)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup Chipts Special Dark Chocolate Chips
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
About a couple Tbsp of Old fashion oats (Amount Varies)

Set my oven to 350F.Beat margarine, granulated sugar and molasses in a large bowl, till creamy.It should have no sign of  molasses and will be light brown in color.

In medium bowl, I mixed together all purpose flour, baking soda and salt. I slowly added the flour mixture into the cream mixture, beating it in.Stirred in the chocolate chips and the dried cranberries. I greased a 9x13 inch metal baking pan with PAM baking spray. 

I mixed 2 tbsp granulated sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl. I sprinkled on the oats and then the sugar mixture over top. I baked the oven for 18 minutes until toothpick inserted into center came out clean. Also when the oats are golden brown.This time may vary if quick oats are used.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

As most of you know,I recently received a PAM baking package, which I won from Leslie Loves Veggies.(see previous post). In this prize,it included one package of Chipts Special Dark Chocolate Chips, which I have never tried before from Hershey until just recently. Anyways, I want to share with all of you my thoughts on these chocolate chips in a recipe since you may of never tried them before.

Well to tell you pretty simply I was very pleased by this Hershey product.These were some pretty scrumptious chocolate chips all on their own.They had a great balance of dark chocolate and sweetness.I may even like them more then Hershey's milk chocolate or semisweet.I actually had a few of these just before stirring them into the dough and it really excited me in trying out these cookies.It made me even more excited because I took it one step further and added Chipts White Chocolate Chips along with it.However now I only wish I had more at the time when I made these cookies.

I also can't forget to mention that I'm very grateful to the sponsors for sending these Hershey products because I know they certainly aren't cheap.So I'm savoring as much as I can for baking and I only used about a cup of dark chocolate chips for these cookies.Now I have leftovers for another recipe!

Now all of you reading these probably want to hear about the recipe? yes?

Well to explain this recipe I have to tell you first about the ideas I had in planning what cookie I wanted to make.At first I wanted to make the original cookie from the Robin Hood website that used mint extract to create a double chocolate chip mint cookie. I really liked this idea;however my brain thought how about eliminate the cocoa and add green food coloring to create a chocolate chip mint cookie.I loved this idea even more and was set to make it;however the idea fell through because I was out of luck for the mint exact. Lucky though, with this recipe I was able to easily change the flavoring to vanilla. This idea will have to be used next time!I definitely recommend to try out these ideas for yourself.If you got that mint exact,use it, use it!

Even though some of my ideas fell flat I was still able to change and add some difference to the recipe.Such as using vanilla flavoring along with adding dark and white chocolate chips.This is the best chocolate combination, but I don't really need to tell you that, you already know.

The flavor of the cookies are exactly how they look.Chocolaty, rich cookie dough paired with all those chocolate chips.Oh! talking about it makes me want one and its to bad they were eaten so fast.Must of been really good! The texture is really good as well,a soft and chewy cookie with just enough thickness to match well with the chocolate chips. These cookies are also clocked full of chocolate chips, which makes it seem more like eating chocolate then a cookie, but there's nothing wrong with that. 

The recipe is pretty simple to follow even with my small changes. You will see my changes in the recipe below, but I've also given everyone options if they don't have the ingredients in the list.Also,I've provided the original recipe link if you want to make those.The only aspect I disagree with the original recipe is the baking time. I find 12-15 minutes way to long I even  baked one batch of cookies at 8 minutes and the edges still overcooked, so I had to adjust the time for the below recipe.However dark cookies are always a little hard to tell if their overdone or underdone.You really need to watch them carefully and going by their time isn't going to help.I've also mentioned all these tips and others in the recipe below.I prefer offering them all in the recipe since most of you are here to try out the recipe.

Well I hope you like the recipe as much as I did! I'm a bit scattered brained in writing this post so bare with me with any mistakes.Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies ( Adapted From Double Chocolate Mint Cookies,Robin Hood)

3/4 cup Parkay soft margarine,hard margarine or butter
1 1/2 cup white sugar and 1 tbsp molasses (or 1 1/2 cup brown sugar)
2 large eggs
1/2  tsp vanilla extracts
1/2 tsp table salt
2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa,sifted
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup Chipts special dark chocolate chips
1/3 cup - 1/2 cup Chipts White Chocolate Chips (optional)

I preheated the oven to 375F. I chose to greased a nonstick pan with PAM baking spray(Be sure not to spray to much!). You can also grease using shortening,lard etc.

I put the electric hand mixer on low and creamed the butter, white sugar and molasses together in a large bowl,till fully combined and creamy.(The mixture will be light brown and no traces of molasses)

I then creamed in the eggs,vanilla and salt till combined.I slowly added in the flour,sifted cocoa and baking soda, beat on low.I stirred in 1 cup of dark chocolate chips and 1/2 cup white chocolate chips.White chocolate chips are optional.

Drop by tbsp on greased cookie sheet(use a tbsp measure, this really helps each cookie to bake evenly)

Bake in a preheated oven for 6-7 minutes.Remove from oven when the edges are set and not overly dark.Top of cookies will be slightly set, but remember they will continue to bake while cooling.So carefully watch them.If the edges are set they are time to come out even if the tops look underdone. Dark cookies are especially hard to time by look so its better to be safe then sorry.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

My Review Of Special K Oats & Honey Cereal + More News!

Many of you that are freebie junkies like me have likely heard about the free Kellogg's Special K Cereal coupon that many signed up for. I was super lucky to get mine because I can imagine they were snatched up quite quickly.To let everyone know though, that this coupon promotion is no longer available and I hope everyone that did get their coupon used it on January 3rd, since its only valid for one day. If you missed out I can imagine their will be more freebie samples to come this new year.If your someone that did get their cereal? Which one did you choose? 

I was able to get their Special K Oats &Honey Cereal. My first choice was to try the Special K Blueberry Cereal,but they were all sold out at Wal-mart. Many people that day must of went their earlier to get a choice between the two and the blueberry must of came out on top.Also, many people know that if its a one day only coupon the products will be gone fast and I think even Wal-mart put it on sale. I'm not really a fan of the one day only idea because a lot of times you forget the day or they end up being all sold out in most stores.However I really can't complain to much because I just got a free box of Special K cereal, which is usually over five dollars original price.I says its definitely worth it to order coupons and sign up for free samples over the Internet, since you will usually get a great deal.

Now everybody most likely wants to hear about my thoughts on this new cereal from Kellogg's. Well this cereal that you see to the left is  Special K Oats &Honey Cereal made with Multigrain flakes,oats and naturally flavored honey.It's also a low in fat cereal. Each portion recommend is about 110 calories.It also lists fiber along with other vitamins and minerals in the cereal.

My first thought when I saw the cereal was "Wow those are some big flakes". Now I wish I took a picture of one of the bigger flakes that was in my bowl.Oh well, you get my point they were rather large compared to other cereal flakes. They are also quite crunchy and were rather nice to snack on without milk.With that trait in mind you know they will hold there own against the milk.Just don't let it sit for to long.


I can admit that I am not a honey lover; however I ended up really liking this cereal.Its actually kind of weird because its only mildly sweet as a snack and as a cereal it seems to get stronger in honey flavor, but not enough to make me hate it.It has a good equal balance of flavors, so either side will find something they like about it.The only negatives I have for this cereal is a regular sized box is way to expensive and I would only choose to buy this if it was on sale along with using a coupon.As a regular price I would not buy this, but as a free sample its definitely worth it. 

Also, in other news I received one of my giveaway wins on Wednesday. I got a PAM baking package that I won at Leslie Love Veggies. Its one of my top favorite giveaway wins so far and I'm very grateful to the sponsors.I will be having a lot of fun trying out and reviewing these products.Look out for upcoming product reviews!

In the package I received lots of goodies, including 3 cans of PAM spray, one package of chipts dark chocolate chips and another package of chipt toffee bits.I also got a Wilton's cookie sheet,one stainless metal spatula and eight small Christmas cookie cutters.I won this on December 22nd and it arrived as a great 2012 gift.This new year is starting out pretty good!

(I was not compensated or asked to do this review of Special K Cereal.I wanted to test my review skills)