My Take on…The Apprentice My Life in the Kitchen- Jacques Pepin

Book Reviews

I was gifted the book The Apprentice My Life in the Kitchen by Jacques Pepin. It is a biography written by Jacques Pepin of his life, how he came to be an apprentice in the kitchens of France, how he came to America, and how he became a televsion personality and cookbook author. And what would a biography of a famous cookbook author be without recipes sprinkled throughout the book? This book does not disappoint.

Jacques Pepin had me hooked on this book from the beginning. It is far from dull! Pepin, obviously a humorous man, told laugh out loud stories from his childhood and beyond. There were also interesting looks into the life of the little boy he was during war torn France during WWII. Of course, there were plenty of details into the life of an apprentice in the many kitchens of France. Upon coming to America, Pepin, always a hard worker, detailed the many jobs he had and the choices he made that led him to become a famous chef. Every chapter highlights a recipe with an introduction, in Pepin’s own words, as to what makes the recipe special.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Apprentice My Life in the Kitchen! What a fascinating life. I would say a lesson learned by reading this book would be to do what you love and to enjoy life to the fullest. And of course to eat good food. I highly recommend reading a copy of this book. It would also make a wonderful gift to anyone interested in cooking.

As always, Happy Reading!

Making English Muffins

Cooking

My husband and I decided to make English muffins. Could these compare to those bought in the store? We had to find out.

To make the English muffins, we started the day before as they needed time to rise and rest. The dough was made using a stand mixer with dough hook. No kneading involved. Gotta love that! The dough was set to rise and then divided into twelve balls and placed on a sheet with cornmeal and covered with plastic wrap. The next step was interesting. Another cookie sheet was placed on top of this, to weigh down the muffins. All this was set in the refrigerator to rest overnight.

In the morning, my husband and I browned batches in cast iron pans on the stove top, flipping to cook both sides. The muffins were then put into the oven to finish cooking until they reached around 205 degrees when poked with a thermometer.

So, how did the English muffins turn out? I really enjoyed them. They were delicious. Mine was cut in half and toasted in the toaster. I then smeared margarine on top. This is my muffin topping of choice. In my opinion, these were much better than any brand of English muffin I have purchased before. The texture was good, they toasted well, and they were fresh. A keeper, I would say.

The recipe (which includes helpful pictures) can be found in the cookbook: America’s Test Kitchen – Bread Illustrated.

My English Muffin

As always, Happy Baking!

Homemade Sushi

Cooking

My daughter likes sushi and decided to make her own sushi at home. This was new to our kitchen, so she found a recipe on-line and we watched a video on how to accomplish this dish. But first she needed supplies.

From the video, we could see that a sushi mat (small pieces of bamboo tied together into a bendable mat) would be an essential tool in the making of the sushi. So, we ordered a set to pick-up curb side. The set was very nice. It also came with a flat, fat wooden spoon to smooth the rice onto the mat and a pair of cute chop sticks. All for under four dollars.

Next, for the food items. She would be using sushi rice (rice especially made for sushi because it turns out nice and sticky), fresh alvacado, cucumber, wasabi, lemon juice, sheets of dried seaweed, and instead of the traditional imitation crab legs, canned salmon. These are the basic indredients for the California Sushi Roll. No raw fish for us.

My daughter made the sushi by first covering the sushi mat with saran wrap. Do not skip this step if deciding to try this at home. This keeps the rice from sticking to the mat. The mat is basically a turning/rolling device that helps to form the rolled sushi. Next, she used the wooden spoon to pat down rice onto the mat. Then she put a sheet of seaweed on top. On top of this, she added the alvacado mixed with lemon juice, cucumber, and salmon. Now it was time to roll it all up. This step required a bit of patience. I think watching a video of the process helped out a lot. After rolling it into a log, my daughter put it in the refrigerator overnight.

My daughter, the sushi chef, hard at work.

The next day for lunch, I was offered some sushi to try for myself. Not a big fan of seaweed, I opted for a small bite. My daughter sliced the log into bite sized portions and squeezed a bit of wasabi onto the plate. I was told only a small bit of this was needed as it was very hot. She also put soy sauce into a dipping bowl to dip the pieces of sushi into before eating.

I sat down, ready to wrinkle my nose up a bit. I tried using the chop sticks, however, I think I need to practice with those a bit more. A spoon ended up being my utensil. With a bit of wasabi on top, into the soy sauce it went, and then into my mouth. My daughter was right, only a bit of wasabi is needed. It was hot but tasted good. To my surprise, the seaweed did not taste like the ocean (maybe the wasabi covered the taste) and I actually enjoyed the sushi. Job well done daughter dear!

As always, Happy Cooking!

Baking Bagels for the First Time

Cooking

I decided to try making homemade bagels. I opted for a recipe I found for Montreal Style bagels. https://anitalianinmykitchen.com/homemade-bagels/ The recipe looked simple enough, and it was.

The bagels were put together quickly using a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. After that, they were set to rest for half an hour, shaped into bagels, and set to rest for another half hour. They were then tossed into a pot of boiling honey water, flipped to boil the other side, sprinkled with sesame seeds, and popped into the oven for fifteen minutes.

My taste testers agreed that they were good enough to make again. I was quite pleased as to how fool-proof they were to make. I think I shall be trying other versions of bagels soon. My son has requested his favorite cinnamon raisin bagel. I am sure the options are endless…

Boiling the bagels.
Out of the pot and sprinkled with sesame seeds.
Ready to eat!

As always, Happy Baking!

Dreaming of Chickpea Soup

Cooking

This Chickpea Soup is my new favorite. I have caught myself craving it at night. It is so yummy! It is such a quick and easy soup to make. As with most soups, one can add or subtract an ingredient or two as needed. The version in my picture was made the day after Thanksgiving, so I added leftover pieces of shredded game hen. Usually, however, this is a meatless soup for us. Let’s get started…

Chickpea and Kale Soup

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small green pepper – diced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • pinch of each: oregano, thyme, basil, sage (dried)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup tomatoe (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped tomatoes (canned) (looks pureed)
  • small bunch of kale (rinsed and torn into small pieces)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • freshly shaved parmigiana cheese or crumbled feta cheese

Heat oil in a pot. Add the green pepper, onion, garlic, herbs, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are barely tender, 4-5 minutes. (Do not brown the onions.) Add the chickpeas, chicken broth, and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, add the kale, and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve with a sprinkling of cheese.

As always, Happy Cooking!

Mediterranean Tuna and Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

Cooking

Spaghetti with meat sauce is not the only way to eat pasta. I felt like a lighter dish last night. So I decided to head to the Mediterranean.

My recipe for Mediterranean Tuna and Roasted Red Pepper Pasta is a quick and easy, healthy dinner choice. Ready to try it? Let’s get started…

Mediterranean Tuna and Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

2 cups of dried pasta (I used mini penne…but bow-tie would also be nice)

1 (5 oz.) can of tuna packed in water (drained)

1/3 cup or so Jar of Roasted Red Peppers (drained) (I buy the jar that is julienned)

1/4 cup sliced black olives (drained) {optional}

2 Tbsp olive oil

Crumbled Feta Cheese

Boil water in a medium pot. Cook pasta for 10 minutes or according to taste.

While the pasta is cooking, pour the olive oil in a medium saute pan and heat over medium heat. To this add the tuna, olives, and peppers. Saute for a few minutes. Add 1/3 cup of the boiling pasta water into the pan. Stir and continue to cook until incorporated and slightly thickened. Do not over cook this, or reduce the liquid.

Drain the pasta and pour into a serving bowl. Pour the tuna mixture over the pasta and toss to incorporate. Serve topped with crumbled feta cheese.

As always, Bon Appetite!

It’s Fall…Time For Lentil Soup

Cooking

It is finally beginning to feel like fall here in SoCal. We received frost on the ground a couple of nights ago, which seemed early for us. The leaves are starting to drop and a few are even changing colors. It is nothing compared to New England, but if one observes closely, the subtle changes are there. With fall in the air, I thought it a good time to make Lentil Soup.

Lentil Soup is an easy meal to make. It does require a bit of time on the stove, however, one can go about their business while the soup simmers. I like to serve warm biscuits or cornbread with my Lentil Soup. Here is the recipe…

Lentil Soup

Ingredients:

1 tsp olive oil

1/4 c onion- diced

2 medium carrots – diced

1 green pepper- diced

1 clove garlic- minced

32 oz. Chicken Broth

1 can diced tomatoes (14.5 oz) (undrained)

1 cup dried lentils (rinsed and drained)

1/2 tsp dried thyme

4 tsp balsamic vinegar

pinch of salt

fresh or dried parsley (to taste)

Steps:

After chopping all the vegetables, heat the oil in a large sauce pot over medium heat. Add carrots, pepper, and onion and cook until softened a bit. Then add garlic and cook until the aroma of garlic is in the air.

Add the broth, tomatoes, and lentils to the pan. Sprinkle in the thyme and salt. Turn the heat to high until the soup comes to a boil. Once it begins to boil, turn the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer for 60 minutes.

When the timer goes off, add the balsamic vinegar and parsley and continue to cook for 5 minutes.

That’s it!

As always, Happy Cooking!

Apple-Cinnamon Oatmeal

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I was in the process of making my morning oatmeal when it dawned on me. We were out of brown sugar. Oh no! I knew we ran out yesterday. Just did not go to the store to replace it yet. That was not a way to start off my morning.

But I was not bothered for too long. A thought came to me of how to save my morning oatmeal. I was already making fried apples with cinnamon. Why not top the oatmeal with these instead!

So, I finished the apples which I was sauteeing in butter with a sprinkling of cinnamon and then decided to add a teaspoon of regular granulated sugar to give it just a bit of sweetness. I usually do not add sugar to the apples, however, since sugar is added to apple pie filling, I thought I would give it a go. I plated the apples and then topped it with my old fashioned oatmeal. Not bad, but I am adding brown sugar to my shopping list.

As always, Happy Cooking!

Another Day with the Crazy Baker

Cooking, gardening

One zucchini can go a long way! I still had one plump zucchini from the garden. Since everyone around my house seems a bit done with sauted zucchini as a side for dinner, I turned into a crazy baker lady today.

I think I shredded five or 6 cups of zucchini. So, with the oven set to 350 degrees, I just kept turning out the recipes until the zucchini was all gone. I ended up making a total of three recipes. I started with Zucchini Brownies, then Zucchini Muffins, and to finish, Zucchini Cake with Orange Glaze. My kitchen looks like a bakery.

I plan on popping most of this in the freezer. Some day when I’m feeling lazy, I can take out a treat for the family. I just hope there is room in the freezer, come to think of it… The last time I opened the door a bag of green peppers (also from the garden) fell into my hands.

As always, Happy Baking!

Making Fried Donuts

Cooking

My son wanted to bake some ‘Donut Shop’ donuts. Since the croissants from the cookbook Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery and Cafe by JoAnne Chang turned out so well, we decided to use a recipe in the same cookbook to make the donuts. We were not disappointed.

As with the croissants, the donuts did take a bit of time. The time was mostly spent waiting for the dough to rise. The actual making of the donuts was simple enough. We made the dough using our stand mixer and popped it in the fridge overnight to do it’s thing. Before going to bed we set the alarm for 5 am. Oh yah…that went over well. So up I popped and down the hall I went to get my son out of bed. It took a few attempts. In the kitchen, we rolled out the dough and stamped out the doughnuts with a large biscuit cutter. It is important to note that the dough should be rolled on the thicker side of half an inch. Better to make these a bit thicker than thinner as they need to be nice and puffy in order to fill them easily. After stamping out the doughnuts, they were left to rise on a floured cookie sheet covered with plastic wrap for two hours. It is important to flour the cookie sheet well or the doughnuts will stick. Then it was back to bed for a couple of hours while the doughnuts were rising.

After another knock or two on my son’s door, we were back in the kitchen and ready to fry our donuts. But wait! Frying takes more oil than I realized! I was off to the store for more oil while my son made the custard filling. We chose to make the same custard filling from my blog post on Polish donuts instead of the vanilla filling the recipe called for. When I returned, we got to work on frying the donuts, two at a time. When they were cool we rolled them in confectioners sugar and not the regular sugar that the recipe called for. Then my son poked holes in the donuts with a skewer and filled them with the custard he made earlier. Voila!

My family sat down for fresh donuts with much anticipation. We all enjoyed them very much. The remaining donuts were for dessert. Hee Hee!

Recipe can be found in the cookbook: Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery and Cafe by JoAnne Chang

Note: To “refresh” the donuts, I popped them into the oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Only do this for un-filled donuts. We filled the donuts as we were going to eating them.

As always, Happy Baking!