{insert Plum cliche}

Off and on for the last week, as I was gearing up for the plum extravaganza, I wondered what great plum cliche would I use as the title for my post. Plum crazy was my intention but I knew I could find something well not so cliche. Such as…

Cliché: Bubble shy of plumb, A  
 

Cliché: Bubble shy of plumb, A

However there just aren’t as many plum cliches as I imagined. So I move on because this really isn’t a blog about cliches, rather about cooking, baking, and the activities of my kitchen. So here we go sans cliche!

A co-worker had recently blessed me with a plethora of plums (I said I’d avoid cliches not alliterations) that sat silently in my fridge for a week. I scoured my favorite cooking sites online to find just the perfect use for these gorgeous plums. I found several recipes, many for yummy looking plum butters, but I didn’t find THE ONE until I spied this recipe. With the 4th soon upon us, I needed plans for the Wednesday holiday and talked my mother in law into hosting a make shift celebration. It was as if the plums had aligned. But the cosmic energies were not done yet! My MIL had also just received my latest birthday gift (my birthday is in April and she’s a tad late for various amazon.com reasons), The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz. And within the pages was a recipe for plum ice cream. So the magical combination of Red, White, and Blueberry Cheesecake Tart and Plum Ice Cream was born and eaten (rather quickly).

I’m not a large fan of cheesecake, but I think I should rephrase or recant that statement after I gorged myself on two large slices of this one. It was light on the light cream cheese and had a nice tang from the sour cream. But when topped with the plum glaze and blueberries it was beyond worldly. With such stiff competition it would be hard for any ice cream to stand up, but the plum ice cream did a fine job of complimenting the creaminess of the cheesecake and softening the bite of the intense plum jelly. It was a fine end to a great meal and a nice way for my many plums to meet their recipe. And the fact I didn’t end this in another cliche is plum amazing!

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Everyday Gourmet

I’m more of a back seat cook, I tend to either give Husband the recipe and watch/comment from my perch by the sink while he’s in the flames of it by the stove or I’m outside all of it and lounging in the kitchen waiting to eat. Something about the addition of meat or the category of “meal” unnerves me and makes me question myself. I fearlessly stare down pastry, cakes, brownies, ice creams and the like but put a piece of poultry in front of me and I turn chicken.

I regret that this hasn’t changed, and the lovely dishes pictured were lovingly created by Husband while I nagged/commented on ways to improve the recipe or upcoming steps to anticipate. I fool myself into thinking I’m helping but most likely I’m in the way and questioning him unnecessarily. While I impede his progress with a barage of comments and questions, he simply moves forward and somehow we always eat on time and he never appears worse for wear.

Husband is like the unsung hero of the kitchen, while I get accolades and praise for my many baking endeavors, he’s at the stove most nights making wonderful dishes. So perhaps, that’s why I’ve decided to “help” him and started looking for nightly recipes at Cooking Light.com. CL has a special category of recipes labeled “Dinner Tonight” and they are wonderful for these weekday meals. I know my pantry quite well and can tell you the state and supply of my sugar, flour, and unsweetened chocolate with a little give or take. Apparently Husband is the same way about the meat in the freezer, which is why he’d tell me what meat we were having and I’d spend my time searching for a meal online that he could make that night. It’s been a rather nice, since instead of resorting to the same rotation of meals, we’re spicing it up and trying something new. In my eyes, this variety makes the kitchen seem more like a restaurant and Husband is really starting to look more and more like a cute English chef. It’s a win-win except for the nagging backseat wife in the kitchen.

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This Pie is a Handful

Summer is the season of pie. While pie is popular all year long, inevitably the abundance of fresh fruit in the summer dictates one or two pies must be made. Pies are a great dessert to use up extra fruit and nothing is more forgiving to slightly bruised fruit than pie.

This summer I was struck by the want to make a pie from scratch long before I had the means to fill it thanks to the movie, Waitress. This movie not only carved a need in me to make pie, eat pie and covet pie, but also a desire to create my own recipes. There’s something how Jenna, the lead character, mirrors her feelings and emotions in her pies that really drew me in. While I don’t want to ever be in the same situation as Jenna, I certainly envy her ability to be so in touch with her feelings and use baking (not eating) pie as a means of therapy.

Making these hand pies wasn’t therapeutic for me but it was certainly enjoyable. I used a new pie crust recipe, Pate Brisee, from Martha Stewart and I’m overjoyed to finally have a flaky, tender pie crust recipe to call my own. I’ve struggled with pie crust before and while I still want to try out this Pate Brisee recipe in a traditional pie pan, I’m encouraged by these tender, flaky hand pies.

Between the crust, I opted to use a pre-made pie filling even though there’s a shopping bag full of plums in the fridge. Husband’s mother had come into a few extra jars of pie filling through a friend from the Internet and I’ve been eager to try them ever since she stocked her pantry. Being able to simply spoon in the prepared pie filling made preparation so easy and while in the end the blueberry filling was lacking for sweetness, I wouldn’t rule out using a different pie filling the next time.

What I liked most about these hand pies is they really are perfect for holding in your hand. This alone makes them perfect for social situations since they can be held, easily portioned, and don’t require the hostess to dirty any additional plates or cutlery. It’s always a good idea to consider the social situation and menu when bringing a dish and in the summer when every other weekend is an opportunity to grill and eat outdoors with friends, these handpies make a quick and easy way to sweeten the season.

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Bourbon Fudge Brownies

With the year slowly approaching the half way mark, the number of celebrations are about to triple. Trust me, I’m almost as excited about the parties as I am about the numerous baking opportunities. And early summer in California means that all sorts of stone fruits are ripe and ready to be made into pies, cakes, and cookies. It’s as if the heavens have aligned and pre-destined all bakers to find nirvana. The only downside, mind you a significant one, is that the heat from the oven can be a bit of a summer baking drawback.

But we must take all things in stride and keep positive and reflect at this mid-year crossing. Myself, I’m thinking back to when we purchased a bottle of bourbon for a cake recipe that husband and I picked for a weekend get together. Unfortunately the party was canceled and since then I’ve been working steadily to finish off the bottle. What I’ve found is I really enjoy having a theme ingredient and my frugal nature inclines me to want to use every last drop of that bottle. If it weren’t for the bourbon I might not have considered making these brownies and what would be a shame.

The most striking thing about this recipe was boiling the bourbon. Typically, I’ve just added the bourbon to the wet ingredients, marinaded with it or added it to an already cooked icing; so if not for the warning from the reviews I would have been overpowered by the stink from the boiling bourbon. I completely agree with the reviewer who said “Look out!!! Just standing too close the boiling bourbon fumes could knock the cook over!” Hopefully these brownies will bowl over my friends and teammates at the end of the season bowling league get together on Wednesday. 

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Makin’ Bacon Cupcakes

Lately, bacon has been getting the star treatment. With the world dominated by foodies and health nuts (myself included..in both categories), bacon is constantly rising in popularity. From bacon placemats, bacon band-aids, to bacon scarves: everyone wants a bit of bacon. I find it really interesting to hear people talk about foods they couldn’t give up. People, myself included, have such an emotional bond with food that when they think about giving up one beloved food for the sake of health, the idea of a diet becomes unfathomable. For me, it’s ice cream, but I imagine the idea of never having bacon again would also throw me into a fit. There is just something about the peppery, sweet, fatty taste of bacon that can’t be replaced or given up.

Thankfully, we don’t have to! In the July issue of Cooking Light, I found a Bacon-Cheddar Corn Muffins recipe that was absolutely perfect for an upcoming Barbeque at pair of foodies’ house. The idea of bacon in a muffin made me smile. I love when I see food outside of it’s normal habitat and bacon in a muffin wrapper definitely qualifies. The recipe was quite easy to follow and with husband’s help in cooking the bacon, it was easy to mix together prior to going to bed. Another thing I love about bacon is how the perfume of cooked bacon hangs in the air long after the meal is served. It’s almost like the bacon’s calling card, but the wafting scent of cooked bacon sent me into a deep sleep filled with dreams of peppered Applewood Bacon and B.L.T. sandwiches. Other than the enjoyable scent of the bacon, the other fun bit of the recipe was curdling the milk with lemon juice. I took a few pictures because (1) it’s cool to watch and (2) I had to wait two minutes for the brew to curdle fully.

In the end, the muffins were almost completely eaten (except for 2) at the party. And while they were a bit dry by the end, I think this could easily be fixed by not using Fat Free Kraft cheese and following the recipe. (God bless Husband, he’s so used to my ‘light’ cooking that he naturally grabbed the FF stuff.)

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Dressing Up Eggplant

I enjoy LOVE baking, but I am expanding my repertories and adding a new category to my personal cookbook-side dishes. Sunday night we did our grocery shopping and to my great despair discovered our local Safeway was out of my beloved zucchini. I struggled to think how I could fill my plate without my green-skinned pinch hitter. But frugal enlightenment was just down the aisle, the purple meaty eggplants winked at me and called to me with their 10 for $10 price tag. I’m always swayed by a bargain but I was hesitant to buy more than one for fear of depositing the unused, neglected remains in the the trash. How many of my produce good intentions end up filed in the plastic trash can? (Acorn squash, spaghetti squash…)

So I struck with a vengeance, and started looking for a tasty eggplant recipe at Cooking Light. There were several but I opted for Grilled Eggplant Salad since I knew thought we had all the ingredients. When I realized that bleu cheese isn’t the same thing as feta cheese, I realized another grocery trip was in order. Husband obliged me and we headed of to the nearby Nugget to grab some feta. While walking back to the cheese section, I was stopped as the piles of tasty green-skinned zucchini waved and called me to purchase a bag full. It was a blissful meeting and we all headed home together.

After an hour of shadowboxing, I was starting to get hungry and was able to make the grilled eggplant salad and broiled zucchini in little to no time. What really made this dish a success for me was the variety of flavors in the salad. The feta softened the harshness of the vinegar, and the eggplant gave a nice meaty bite next to the soft tomatoes. There was enough left that husband and I will be finishing it off for lunch. Shame we didn’t have any zucchini left but what can I say, I’ve burned myself before from eating it straight from the pan.

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Rollin’

After my last offering (Pecan Sticky Rolls) for the birthday brunch at work, I secretly promised myself to that next time I would either (a) bring fruit or (b) bring a casserole. But alas, I just can’t keep promises to myself. I saw the recipe for Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls in the June issue of Cooking Light and all hope of keeping my word were gone. After my first foray into bread making I got hooked and now I’m instantly attracted to any recipe that has one devilish five letter word in it, y-e-a-s-t.

I really enjoyed the process of making these rolls, it had several steps (my inner Martha beamed proudly), involved waiting as the dough rised, rolling the dough, and only minimal oven time so the house didn’t get too warm. It was absolutely perfect so you can understand why I was crestfallen when the end product just didn’t seem worthy of the process. My husband liked them and while I admit they didn’t taste bad they just didn’t taste incredible. And after multiple steps, I want incredible.

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