Black & White & Color, Photo Challenge

I am going to break my tradition of never posting pictures of myself today. This was a shot I uploaded to Instagram on a day where I ran without goals. No pace, no distance and no time recorded. Just a path and some good music, and even better weather!

This was one of my last runs in Tucson before heading back to Seattle and I was feeling the future pain of training in the wind, rain and cold!

So which version captures the feeling of freedom of running without limits?

IMG_1920

The color version of the end of my run

or

IMG_1920 2

The Black and White version

Grab your camera or phone and join Linda from Everyone Else has the best titles and Take the “Black and White and Color” photo challenge!

Is store bought puff pastry really good enough?

IMG_3922

How many times have you heard a chef on TV say that store bought puff pastry is just as good as making it yourself? Probably many times! I know I have and I have never seen a recipe that says “first make puff pastry”. No one makes puff pastry aside from a few bakeries out there. Most businesses determined, long ago, that it is not cost effective to pay someone to spend the entire day making just laminated dough. They tend to have it shipped frozen and roll out the thawed dough to make their pastries.

Hey, I get it! I made full puff pastry in culinary school and it was a serious chore! But have you heard of “rough puff” dough? If you are a fan of The Great British Baking Show, then there is a good chance that you are aware of this baking shortcut.

I got to thinking, is store bought really just as good? I decided to make two identical tarts, one with store bought puff pastry and one with rough puff and compare the end products.

Puff pastry is all about building layers and keeping everything cold. I am currently in my kitchen in Tucson and the temperature the day I made this was 86°F, so not ideal conditions! But I went for it anyway, and here is what I found out.

Let’s start with the rough puff which is only four ingredients: flour, salt, butter and milk (or water). Since one huge advantage store bought dough has over making your own is time, I needed to record how long the rough puff takes to prepare.

IMG_3910

I gathered my hardware

I set my phone timer and hit start.

 

I combined 1 cup of flour, 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt, whisked it together. Next was the addition of 5 oz. of COLD. European butter. Why specifically European? It is comes from grass fed cows and gives the pastry a quality our domestic butter just can’t match. But if you don’t have access to that, just make sure your butter is cold!!

 

IMG_3913

 

IMG_3916

Look how yellow that butter is! 

The butter is cut into the flour and salt mixture until small bits of butter are visible.

IMG_3917

Lastly add the 1/4 cup COLD milk or water and combine until a shaggy dough forms.

IMG_3918

IMG_3919

This is where the folding come into play. Pat the dough, on a well floured board, into a rectangle, about 8 X 10 and then fold into thirds. This is your first fold.

IMG_3920

Rotate 90 degrees, and repeat by rolling into the 8 X 10 rectangle and fold the dough into thirds and onto itself again. That is fold number two. The goal is to do this a total of 6 folds.

IMG_3921After my third fold is where the temperature in my kitchen caught up to me! The butter was getting soft, so after the third fold I had to put the dough into the refrigerator for 15 minutes to cool down. I finished the next three folds (for a total of 6) as quickly as I could and then the dough needs to be refrigerated for an hour before proceeding.

 

So, how long did it take to get to this point? When I got the pastry into the fridge for the 1 hour rest I hit stop on my clock.

IMG_2116

 

Since I had to stop and chill the dough and then let it sit for more than the recommended hour to firm up, my time was longer than it should have been. If I had done this in my Seattle kitchen, I think it would have only been about 30 minutes.

 

By comparison, if I was using store bought I would have saved this 50 minutes.

It was now time to make the tarts. First I pulled out the chilled rough puff pastry, rolled it into a 10 X14 rectangle, pricked the pastry with a fork. I returned this to the fridge while I prepared the store bought dough.

 

The store bought puff pastry was thawed, in the fridge overnight so all that was needed was to unfold it, roll it into a 10 x 14 rectangle and dock the dough. Since the store bought was already in a 9 X 9 inch sheet, the rolling out process was also faster.

So far they look fairly equal, except for their color.

IMG_3930

The dough on the left is the store bought and the right is the rough puff

There is a big difference in color thanks to the rich butter. There was also extra dough from the rough puff but nothing left over from the thinner store bought sheet. I used the extra dough to decorate the rough puff so I wouldn’t get them confused in the oven!

With Thanksgiving around the corner I decided to make pear, apple and cranberry tarts. Once the filling was in place they both went into the 400°F oven for 30 minutes.

They both looked great!

IMG_3938

Rough puff tart

IMG_3939

Store bought tart

Visually, there doesn’t appear to be too much of a difference! Choosing the lowest points of each crust to measure the depth of the crust showed that they were practically the same. A slight edge could go to the rough puff.

 

Slicing it open and looking at the layers did show a difference.

IMG_3958

store bought, end on view=dense, no air pockets

IMG_3963

Store bought bottom edge=small air pockets with a few layers

IMG_3959

rough puff, end on view=large air pockets, very flaky

IMG_3962

rough puff, bottom edge=air pockets all along the bottom edge

Now it was time for the taste test! My hubby was the judge, he was given a slice of each but it was a blind test. He did not like the buttery flavor of the rough puff! He said it was too buttery for his taste. It was also the flakiest of the two tarts, but the store bought was tasty too!

 

IMG_3965

IMG_3983

IMG_2145 2

The verdict? I felt that the rough puff was worth the extra time and effort. I would like to take one more crack at it with a cooler kitchen! I did like the flakiness and the extra butter flavor did not bother me!! Although if you are tight for time, then the store bought is just as good as making your own.

Rough Puff Pastry

A quick puff pastry recipe that is buttery and flaky and easy to make.

Credit: E2 Bakes Brooklyn

Ingredients

-1 cup flour

-1/4 Teaspoon kosher salt

-5 OZ. good quality European Butter, cold

-1/4 cup milk or water, cold

 

Directions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Use a pastry blender or two forks to cut butter into dry ingredients until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. Pour in cold water or milk and stir with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms
  2. Flour a smooth surface and a rolling pin. Turn dough out onto surface, and use your hands to pat it into a rough rectangle. Roll the dough into an 8×10″ rectangle. Fold dough in thirds, and give it one quarter turn. Roll into an 8×10″ rectangle again, fold, and turn. Repeat rolling, folding, and turning until it has been done six times total. Wrap folded dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to 48 hours. 

Apple, Pear and Cranberry tart

  • Servings: 1 10 X 14 tart
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

A simple and elegant fruit tart. Perfect for a buffet table and can be served at room temperature.

Credit: invisible-no-more.com

Ingredients

-2/3 cup dried cranberries

-1/4 cup Calvados or Brandy

-1-2 apple, peeled cored and sliced thin

-1-2 pears, peeled cored and sliced thin

-2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

-2 Tablespoons butter

-1-2 Tablespoons maple syrup

-egg wash as needed

 

Directions

  1. Place dried cranberries into a shallow bowl and add the Calvados, or Brandy or Water to rehydrate. Allow a minimum of 15 minutes.
  2. Peel, core and thinly slice the apples and pears. Arrange in a pattern over the pastry dough. Add the cranberries and sprinkle with the sugar.
  3. Dot the tart with the butter and brush the crust with the egg wash. Bake at 400F for about 30 minutes, until puffed and golden.
  4. Brush the warm tart with the maple syrup. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Black & White & Color, Photo Challenge

Last night we went to a Meet Up Tucson group. The goal was to meet some of our new neighbors and, finally, start getting to know some people locally. We met up with the “off the couch gang” at a Zona 78, an Italian restaurant. I had this raspberry martini (to start!)

It was delicious and the company was great, we really did have a fun time! I got to thinking this morning about using the drink for this challenge, but wanted to take it a little further with some animation, so which do you prefer:

 

 

export copy

The color version of the raspberry martini with bubbles

or

export

The black and white version with bubbles

Grab your camera or phone and join Linda from Everyone Else has the best titles and Take the “Black and White and Color” photo challenge!

Black & White & Color, Photo Challenge

Here is my contribution to Linda’s challenge today. I generally take a photo of each sunrise here in Tucson. I am partial to the beautiful colors, but was a little curious how the image would be affected if it were in black and white. Very different pictures!

Grab your camera or phone and join Linda from Everyone Else has the best titles and Take the “Black and White and Color” photo challenge!

 

IMG_2073 2

 

IMG_2073 3

Two Challenges, One Post!

Two of my favorite people currently have challenges due today.

Roda, from Growing Self Blog has her “Critter Connection, Fall Edition” and Linda from Everyone Else has the best titles started a “Black and White and Color” photo challenge.

I decided to mash them up today. I do need to explain a little bit about the critter I chose. We recently visited the Tucson Botanical Garden and when I saw this animal I immediately thought of Roda. I checked the “rules” for her challenge, and at no time did she specifically say the “critter” had to be currently roaming the earth.

I didn’t bother checking Linda’s rules because, well she doesn’t do rules!! So, I present the following:

IMG_3700

IMG_3700 2

This velociraptor was part of the Botanical Gardens, prehistoric section. There were a couple other large reptiles, but this was my favorite.

I hope you ladies are ok with my interpretation of the challenges! Love you both 🙂

SaveSave

Guest in Jest #18 Invisible-No-More

I was honored to be a Guest in Jest on Linda’s blog! If you haven’t done so already, check out her site and consider submitting a story for her to share 🙂

Everyone Else Has the Best Titles

dscn2368

My name is Dee Dee, and I go by Dtills on WordPress. I started my blog, Invisible-no-more.com because I felt, well, invisible! I had entered that magical time known as “the midlife crisis”, sort of fell into it really, and couldn’t figure out how to begin the painful process of pulling my life together. My youngest had gone off to college, my husband and I were not connecting well and I felt alone and isolated. My blog is a chronicle of those activities, actions and connections formed that have helped me piece together a future that I now feel is hopeful and engaging. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have helped me as I work through this transition!

As for an amusing story, well this was not all that amusing at the time, but with the passage of 23 years, it has taken on…

View original post 849 more words

Leftover Challenge: Chicken and Orzo Soup

IMG_3890

One of the my favorite things to do for dinner is to roast a whole chicken. That, with some roasted veggies and a nice roll or slice of bread, makes for a satisfying meal that is also fitness friendly! This is actually one of the most requested dinners from my hubby and our two kids.

It is just the two of here in Tucson, so I knew that this nice, big roaster would easily pull double duty the next day. I always choose the largest bird I can find, this one is just over 6 lbs. I pat it dry, stuff the cavity with a lemon, onion and whatever herbs I have that will go bad soon. I tie him up, rub olive oil over the skin and add salt and pepper. This gets popped into a 400-425°F preheated oven for about an hour and a half (until the temp reads 155-160°F). After a 10 minute rest we are ready to carve and eat.

After dinner I spend a few minutes picking the carcass clean! I am looking for about a pound of left over meat to use the next day in the soup. And that is where we start now!

This soup is low in fat so we need some serious flavor help. I find that smoked paprika and red pepper flakes are great flavor additions.

IMG_3859

I am not a fan of regular paprika but the smoked version really adds some depth. White wine adds some much needed acid, and you only need a cup. I detest opening a full bottle of wine for 1 cup, and I don’t want to spend a lot on wine that I am only using for cooking. I have found this wonderful 4 pack of pinot sold in most grocery stores. 1 little bottle is just about 1 cup.

IMG_3861

So no waste and it is not expensive. They sell red wine four packs as well and I keep both on hand for these sorts of recipes. Back to the soup!

Heat 1 tablespoon or so in a 4-6 quart pot and add 1 finely chopped onion. After the onion becomes translucent add the minced garlic, paprika and red pepper flakes, cook for 2-3 minutes longer.

IMG_3866

IMG_3870

Now add the acidic ingredients, 4 chopped plum tomatoes and the white wine. A quick word about the tomatoes. I like to core and remove the seeds because they add no actual flavor and too much water to the soup.

IMG_3865

Add the chicken broth and bring the soup to a boil. While the pot is cooking away, prepare your chicken. Chop about 1 pound of cooked chicken into bite sized pieces.

And, rinse and drain 1 15 oz. can of navy beans.

IMG_3874

Now is also a good time to cook the orzo. You may be thinking “why don’t I just dump the orzo into the soup and cook it all together?” The answer is yes, absolutely you could do that! But, unless you are feeding a crowd and will eat the entire pot of soup that day, I would advise against that. The pasta will break down in the presence of the acids and become mushy. Not a texture we enjoy here! Also, if you prepare the orzo separately then people can add as much or as little as they like, depending on their carb needs 🙂

I, sadly, did not have another pot to make the pasta so had to improvise. My deep skillet did the trick! While the orzo is cooking, add the chicken and beans to the soup and continue cooking until the chicken is heated through.

Near the end, add the mushrooms and peas and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. The final addition is the spinach, it only needs to wilt and you want to retain the bright green so add this last before plating.

IMG_3878

And that’s it! Time to serve it up. Add the orzo to the bowl, don’t worry if it is not hot the soup will take care of that.

If the kids don’t like soup, they might like the orzo with a little butter or marinara. You can make as much or as little orzo as your family requires.

IMG_3882

You can use store bought rotisserie chicken for an even faster meal prep.

IMG_3889

I have also made this with both pork and uncooked chicken. Just take a pound of either and cut into 1 inch cubes. Brown the cubes on all sides in the 1 tablespoon of olive oil, you don’t need to cook the meat through as it will continue to cook in the soup. Remove the meat from the pot and set aside, then proceed with the recipe (make sure to scrape up all the brown bits on the bottom of the pan when you add the wine and tomatoes, this is great for flavoring the soup!)

My favorite dinner rolls to serve with this are found here.

IMG_3884

Chicken and orzo soup, a great way to transform that chicken from last night!

IMG_3895

Chicken and Orzo Soup

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print
Credit: invisible-no-more.com

Ingredients

-1 Tablespoon Olive oil

-1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

-4 cloves garlic, finely minced

-2 teaspoons smoked paprika

-1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

-4 plum tomatoes, chopped

-1 cup white wine

-4 cups low sodium chicken broth

-1 pound cooked chicken or pork, cut into 1 inch cubes

-1 15oz. can white beans, or navy beans

-4 oz mushrooms, sliced

-6 oz. frozen peas or corn

-2-4 oz. fresh spinach

-1/2 to 1 box Orzo pasta, cooked and drained

 

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion to the pot and cook, stirring often, until just beginning to brown, 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Add garlic, paprika and crushed red pepper (if using) and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add wine and tomatoes, increase heat to high and stir to scrape up any browned bits.
  4. Add broth and bring to a boil.
  5. Add the cooked chicken and beans and continue cooking until the chicken is heated through. Reduce to a simmer.
  6. Prepare the Orzo as per package instructions, drain and set aside
  7. Add mushrooms and peas (or corn, or both) and stir thoroughly. Add the spinach at the end. Serve over the orzo.