Making Dinner Plans

More Gift Ideas—Organic Food Subscription Boxes

 

Chamomile; German Chamomile; Hungarian Chamomile; Camomile; Matricaria recutita; Chamomilla recutita; Matricaria chamomilla

While we’re on the subject of healthy snacks, I thought that this would be a good time to share this list of twenty food subscription boxes again…

1.  Blue Apron

  • Who:  People who want to experiment with fun and creative recipes, avoid grocery shopping, and adventurous chefs who enjoy trying new ingredients.
  • What:  Fresh ingredients with seasonal recipes that are never repeated during the year.
  • How much: Prices start at $59.94/week (for a 2 person, 3 meals a week plan) and $69.92/week (for a 4 person, 2 meals a week plan)

2.  Batch

  • Who: People who enjoy Southern hospitality and food
  • What:  limited-edition, themed collection of handmade goods from Southern makers from Nashville, Memphis, Austin, and Charleston
  • How Much:  Batch’s holiday subscription box ships twice: February and May.Cost: Two-month subscription boxes cost $98 for standard or $198 for deluxe boxes. Their one-off, non-subscription boxes make fantastic gifts, too, and run from $39 to $119 a box.

3.  Carnivore Club

  • Who:  discerning carnivores
  • What:  Each month members receive an impressive faux-wood box filled with four to six of the very best artisanal curated cured meat,  featuring artisans from around the world. Each month’s box is themed around one producer specializing in a particular style of cured meats—such as French Charcuterie, Italian Salumi, Spanish Chorizo, South African Biltong and Artisanal Jerky.
  • How much:  Carnivore Club has a range of delivery options including monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly.Cost: $50/month.

4.  Cocoa Runners

  • Who:  Chocolate connoisseurs
  • What:   A box of four different full-size chocolate bars, made from high-quality artisanal chocolate from around the world
  • How much:  $30/month

5.  Degustabox

  • Who:  adventuresome and trendy Foodstirs
  • What:  11-15 full-size food items that are new to the market.
  • How much: Regularly $19.99, but use coupon code DEGUSTA10 to get your first box for $9.99.

6.  Farm to People

  • Who:  people who are addicts to shopping at a farmer’s market.
  • What:  three to four products for “The Casual Foodie” box, or five to eight for “The Food Critic”…small-batch, artisanal goodies made with sustainable ingredients straight from farms across America… no GMOs and nothing artificial, ever.
  • How much:  $30/month for “The Casual Foodie” or $50/month for “The Food Critic”

7.  Graze


  • Who:  people looking for healthy, properly portioned, and nutritious snacks
  • What:  subscriber’s choice of eight of the 100 available choices of snacks…
  • How much: $11.99 for 8 snacks per box

8.  HelloFresh

  • Who: people who enjoy cooking healthy home-cooked meals
  • What:  meal subscription boxes that deliver fresh, nutritious, pre-portioned ingredients—including meat, fish, produce, and grains—along with chef-inspired recipe cards
  • How much:  offers options 3, 4 or 5 meals per week for 2 or for 4 people for basically $10-11.50/per person per meal

9.  Healthy Surprise

  • Who: people on a “clean eating” or paleo diet
  • What: a selection of all natural, 100% guilt-free, gluten-free, GMO, soy, corn, wheat, and gluten-free treats
  • How much:  starts  at $50/box for 15 full size snacks.

10.  Love with Food Tasting Box

  • Who: healthy snackers who like to “give back”
  • What:  12 to 15 natural and organic gluten-free and celiac-safe snacks and sweets…no trans fats, no hydrogenated oils, no artificial flavors/colors, and no high-fructose corn syrup
  • How much:  $10/box for 8 snacks…plus for every box Love With Food sends out, two meals are donated to a food bank in America.

11.  Mantry.

  • Who: men who like trying new snacks, liquors, prepared sauces, and mixes made in America.
  • What:  Branded, lidded wooden crates containing six full-size, non-perishable, stereotypically male-marketed artisan dude-friendly food products such as snacks, liquor, prepared sauces, or flavor enhancers…each box has a particular theme…past themes have included Bacon Nation, Tailgate Tour and Bourbon BBQ.
  • How much:  Each box costs $75.

12.  Nature Box

  • Who:  snackers who want to choose exactly what snacks go in their pack
  • What: a choice of 100+ super-healthy, super-delicious snacks, from chocolate hazelnut granola to sriracha rice crackers
  • How much:  $20 for 5 full-sized snack bags

13.  Orange Glad

  • Who:  people with a taste for exotic treats
  • What:  a gourmet dessert subscription box featuring tasty delights like Russian tea cakes and chocolate almond macaroons
  • How much: $20-$22/month depending on subscription length

14.  Peach Dish

  • Who:  people whose goal is to cook dinner more often and enjoy trying new recipes
  • What:  a meal kit delivery service offering Southern-infused seasonally inspired recipes to cook at home. Each kit includes all the ingredients along with a detailed, step-by-step instruction card needed to prepare for two dinner of the eight different meals offered each week (four meat/fish and four vegetarian). PeachDish also has a separate store on its website with desserts, jams, spice blends, flavored salts, meats, cookbooks, and more.
  • How much:  Prices vary based on how many servings you order. The minimum order is $50, which is the standard box that includes two meals each for two individuals, breaking down to $12.50 per person.

15.  Plated

  • Who:  people who don’t have the time or the energy to plan what’s for dinner, go to the grocery store, and get everything you need for the week
  • What:  all of the ingredients — except for salt, pepper, olive or vegetable oil, and eggs — and step-by-step cooking instructions printed on recipe cards for your choice of seven different meat, seafood, and vegetarian dinners
  • How much:  $48/box…all of the meal kits serve two people at $12 per person. You can choose anywhere from two to seven dinners per week. You can also upgrade any dinner to a Chef’s Table dinner, which includes specialty cuts of meat and seafood, for additional $2 to $18 per person, per dinner…and add dessert to the box for $4 per person, per dessert. The most popular kit is three dinners a week for $72.

16.  Treatsie

  1. Who:  chocolate lovers and those with a sweet tooth
  2. What:  a box of up to $25 worth of delicious artisan sweets—cookies and chocolate to candies and caramel—from three different candy makers each month—indie candy labels, small batch artisanal sweets, and other under-the-radar goodness. You can also choose a subscription that only sends candy bars.
  3. How much:  $20 per month

17.  Try The World

  • Who:  world travelers with foreign tastes
  • What:  tasty treats from other countries, such as cookies from Paris and turkish delights from Turkey
  • How much:  $29-$39 per box

18.  Turntable Kitchen

  • Who. hostesses that would like to find rising artists, enjoy an original menu, get to know unique ingredients, and wow their friends with a playlist of the best new music each month.
  • What:  Pairings Box with perfectly coordinated soundtrack and menu—includes  three seasonal recipes, one or two dried ingredients, a digital mixtape, and a limited-edition vinyl record.
  • How much:  $25/month

19.  Vegan Cuts

  • Who:  vegans and other people interested in finding new gluten-free snacks
  • What:  10 or more vegan-certified snacks (from soda to kale chips
  • How much:  $20 per month

20. Vegin’ Out

  • Who:  vegetarians and vegans interested in having convenient, completely pre-made, customizable meals
  • What:  3 vegetarian vegan entrees, 4 vegetarian vegan side dishes, 1 vegetarian vegan soup, and 5 vegan cookies
  • How much: $128-$170 depending on location
Making Dinner Plans

Labor Day Layout

 

This weekend is Labor Day weekend…a holiday strangely positioned in the school year calendar...Let’s start school for a week or two, and then give the kids a long weekend to re-mess up the schedules that their parents have been trying so hard to get them used to over the last few weeks.

Anyway, Labor Day is a great time for a last-ditch effort at a “summer” picnic or barbecue, so this post is going to be about how to have a “politically correct” yet delicious meal…

 

Prepping Your House for a Labor Day Bas…(Or Ay Other Bash for That Matter)

1.Use disposable plates, utensils, and so forth. This is not Christmas or Thanksgiving. Don’t risk the chance of one of your wedding gifts from thirty years ago being broken…Just make sure that the products that you use are recyclable.

  • Each year in the U.S. alone, an estimated 40 billion plastic utensils are used.
  • Each day 500 million disposable plastic straws are tossed away, in the United States alone.

Even though it might be convenient and easy to entertain using Styrofoam plates, plastic cutlery, and plastic cups…eating outdoors shouldn’t mean leaving a trail of litter in the form of disposable plates and cutlery.

 

The Three R’s

Instead of contributing to these statistics, we should all consider the three R’s of helping to protect the environment…

 

1. Reduce…Buy only what you need….The most eco-friendly option is always to use whatever cups and plates you already have at home. If you have a large crowd to feed, consider renting plates from a local church or community center.

 

 

2. Re-use…If you must buy something, plan on using it and re-using it.
It does take more effort to use reusable items, but choosing dishes and glasses that can be washed and used over and over again–instead of paper and plastic–saves not only on what goes thrown into landfills but also on having to buy those items again and again.

Reusable items can also add a touch of class and decoration to a party. Eating with sturdy cutlery is much less frustrating than cutting food on a Styrofoam plate with a flimsy plastic knife. So consider buying a second set of cheap, lightweight plates and cutlery at a local thrift store.

Serving iced juice or water in a beverage dispenser is not only practical and elegant, but eliminates the need for a cooler full of dripping wet plastic water bottles or soda cans.
Serve drinks in small mason jars. Write guests’ names on the side in permanent marker, or tie a ribbon around to differentiate.

 

3. Recycle…If you must use disposables, look for paper plates made from 100% recycled paper. This should be considered only as a final option.

There are several companies who make good quality re-useable, eco-friendly paper and plastic picnic-ware..as well as companies that make environmentally-friendly products from cork, bamboo, coconut, palm, and stainless steel.

 

Here are a few great examples…

1. Bambu Home Veneerware® 

  • Available…in a package of 8 plates, or in a case of 100 plates.
  • Cost…$70 per case
  • Made from…100% certified organic bamboo
  • Sizes…7″, 9″, or 11″ round…square sizes too

2. Eco-Friendly Cookware Bamboo Square Plates – Chartreuse 

  • Available…set of 4
  • Cost…$29.95
  • Made from…bamboo fiber and corn powder
  • Size…8″

3. Preserve Products Large On The Go Plates

  • Available…sets of 8
  • Cost…$7.25
  • Made from…100% recycled lightweight but sturdy #5 dishwasher-safe plastic that can withstand hundreds and hundreds of uses without cracking, warping, or breaking
  • Size…10.5” large plate

4. Stalk Marketplates

  • Available…420 plates per case
  • Cost…$55.70
  • Made from…sugarcane bagasse, a material which breaks down into natural soil in approximately 50-100 days in properly maintained compost facilities
  • Size…7″ classic round plate

5. To-Go Ware

  •  Available…sets of five
  • Cost…$9.99
  • Made from…dishwasher-safe bamboo

6. VerTerra

  • Available…packs of 25
  • Cost…$22.00
  • Made from…fallen palm leaves
  • Size…extra-large 10” recyclable plates

 

More Pointers About Setting Up Your Labor Day Party…

1.Setting Up the Buffet Table…Any flat surface-a desk, a coffee table, a piano top, a card table, a kitchen counter, or a patio table-can be used to set out a buffet meal…but allow yourself at least five linear feet of surface space.If this much space isn’t available, use three or four smaller tables—one for tableware, another for the main course, a third for dessert, and a fourth for beverages.The placement of the buffet table is determined by the dimensions of the room. Position the buffet table in the center in a large room to allow for service from both sides or both ends of the table and reduce congestion in the room….against the wall Ia small room to allow space for the flow of traffic.Set any dining room chairs against the wall.

  • Put most plentiful or cheapest types of food at the beginning. Push the scarcest or most expensive to the end.
  • Arrange food in groups of related temperatures, such as hot foods together.
  • Allow enough room beside each dish for guests to rest their dinner plate while they help themselves to food that requires two utensils to serve, for example, a tossed salad…as well as the serving utensils near the food they are to be used for, and any sauces and condiments that accompany a given dish.
  • At the exit end of the table, lay the flatware and napkins. Set flatware in a row on the table, if space permits. When flatware is placed in a stacked position, the top utensil is difficult to remove.

 

2.Setting Out Additional Table(s)…Do not make people pick up anything else-forks, knives, spoons, or cups-at the beginning of the line that they will have to juggle while scooping or picking up food during their voyage down the buffet table. That’s just rude.
If using “real” dinner plates, stack them in groups of eight…higher stacks of plates make your buffet almost seem like a cafeteria.

Set paper napkins with the seam facing outwards. This will help guests pick them up from the table easier.

 

3. Setting Out the Food…If you can, arrange the food in stations…

  • Plates, and Forks
  • Main Dishes
  • Side Dishes
  • Desserts
  • Beverages

Start with a clean house, especially the kitchen, before guests arrive….Make sure your dishwasher is empty. Having a full dishwasher is guaranteed to ruin your clean-as-you-go party plan even before guests arrive….Take out the trash. Line wastebasket bottoms with newspaper to soak up grease and liquids before putting a garbage bag back in.

Use tablecloths….Food and drink spills can destroy good tables..and card tables are plain out ugly. Use tablecloths that are fun and carry out the theme of the party. At the end of the party, you can simply pick up the cloth, shake it out and throw the tablecloth in the washing machine.

Don’t serve messy food…The less messy food served, the less mess you’ll have to clean….Stick to bite-sized, grab-as-you-go foods. People will pop them into their mouths and continue to mingle, giving little opportunity to make a mess.

Make as much as you can ahead of time. Doing the bulk of your cooking the day before keeps your kitchen cleaner the day of.

Find a way to identify each person’s glass. That way each individual does not end up using six in the course of the evening. Find a way to identify beer bottles. Use wine charms.

Have plenty of coasters around for guests to set their drinks on. Disposable coasters can be purchased in packs of fifty or more.

Pour glasses as guests arrive instead of having glasses already poured for everyone when they arrive.

If you will be setting up a bar, put the bar outside…assuming it’s warm outside. This keeps spills outside instead of inside on your floors, carpets and rugs. If it’s the dead of winter, roll your bar cart to a non-carpeted surface that’s easy to clean and away from high-traffic areas.

If you will actually be serving wine, choose a white wine. Dark-colored wines and liquors can create tough-to-clean stains.

Use a glass drink dispenser. This makes it easier for people to choose their own drink and prevents glasses that aren’t actually needed clean.

Be prepared for the inevitable something being either broken or spilled by keeping the following close at hand…

  • spritz bottle with cool water and a clean cloth
  • portable stain removers, like Shout Wipes or Tide to Go
  • hand vacuum
  • small dustpan and broom.

Make it easy for people to leave their dirty dishes all in one spot. Set out a few large dish bins filled with soapy water in an out-of-the-way spot on the kitchen counter. This creates a spot for guests to place dirty dishes and helps you avoid stacks of dirty plates later.

Keep trash bags in plain sight. Have plenty of trashcan and garbage bags located throughout your home so people can throw away their stuff away themselves. If guests don’t know where to throw their stuff away, they simply can’t.

Keep spare trash bags close at hand.…For big bashes, you’ll likely have to take out the trash at least once.

It’s okay to keep certain areas of your home “off limits.” Keep certain doors locked or spaces decoratively blocked off. Otherwise you’ll spend all night hunting down half-empty wine glasses and dirty dishes…not to mention passed-out guests.

Do a final “walk-through” before guests arrive, imagining yourself as a guest who is going through the buffet line to fill her plate. Make sure that there’s enough room for people to get through and that the traffic flow makes sense…and that the buffet is as organized as possible.

Cleaning up while guests are still there makes them uncomfortable and keeps the party from being fun for yourself.

Send leftovers home with guests….Make sure you have plenty of plastic containers, aluminum foil, and large plastic bags on hand.
Avoid disappearing into the kitchen until all of your guests have left.

 

Once your final guest does leave, it’s time for the serious cleanup to begin…if you sit down now, nothing will get done and you will regret it later.

  • Quickly go through the house with a garbage bag to pick up any trash or disposable items.
  • Next gather up any dishes. Unload and reload the dishwasher. Rinse off plates and stack them if the dishwasher is full.
  • Use ziploc bags to store any leftovers.
  • Empty and rinse out any coolers or bins that were used.
  • Use a dust cloth to clean off wood surfaces.
  • Wipe down kitchen surfaces with an all-purpose cleaner and paper towels.
  • Pre-treat stains on linens. Toss them into the washing machine to soak overnight.
  • Quickly vacuum in the open areas to clean up all the crumbs so that you avoid attracting any bugs.

 

THE FOOD

Now let’s look at the more exciting part of this event—the food….keeping the following points in mind…

  • Have a lot of small, easily packaged finger foods that travel well.
  • Offer something more exciting than the expected picnic fare.
  • Serve foods that will not spoil if left out for an hour or so.

 

Dips and Spreads

 

Salads

Salads–specifically pasta salad, potato salad, coleslaw–are also pretty typical standard picnic fare.

The hearty ingredients in pasta salads and and potato salads hold up well even if they suffer a bit of battering in transit, but leafy salads with dressing can wilt and turn really ugly if left out too long. Wait until the last minute before serving to add dressings and any other final touches to these salads.

Now for a few great ideas…

 

Main Entree

Labor Day menus typically consist of lots and lots of meat…so in light of the fact that my dear husband and almost everyone else who will be gathered at my house laughs at my idea of eventually switching to a complete Raw Foods diet, I will actually be committing the cardinal sin for these carnivores…yes, I’m serving meat…

Actually I’m making sandwiches that we can prep ahead of time, so that MDH(my dear husband) does not have to spend all day over the grill in this 100-degree Texas heat…

Here are a few ideas of the sandwiches that I am considering, along with a recipe that has become a favorite of everyone related to me in my necks of the woods…

 

Sandwiches

The sandwich is typically lord of both the lunchbox and the typical picnic…which is appropriate because the modern “sandwich” as we know it was actually named after the real Lord Sandwich.

Supposedly Lord Sandwich, a very conversant gambler, would ask his servants to bring him a piece of salt beef between two slices of toasted bread during his long hours playing at the card table…when he refused to take the time to actually sit down and have an actual meal.

Soon others that gambled at the tables with Lord Sandwich would also order “the same as Sandwich”, and thus the “sandwich” as we know became standard fare.

Sandwiches that I am considering for this year’s Labor Day “It’s Too Damn Hot in Texas Even Though It’s September” meal are…

 

Wraps

A wrap is a type of a sandwich, similar to a burrito or gyro, but differs from the typical sandwich mainly because one piece of soft flatbread–such as a wheat-flour tortillas, lavash, or pita–completely surrounds the contents–as opposed to a typical “sandwich,” which has both a top and bottom piece of bread.

Legend has it that a waitress in Stamford, Connecticut served the first wrap in the mid-1990s after the restaurant had run out of bread, but today wraps have become ordinary menu items at such establishments as McAlister’s Deli, KFC, and even McDonald’s.

Here are a few wrap recipes that I am considering…

 

Now for the promised recipe…

 

 

Italian Beef Sandwich

  • 2Tbsp cooking oil
  • 2# beef chuck roast
  • 2 packets Good Seasonings Italian Salad Dressing & Recipe Mix
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 large sweet onions, sliced
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1-1/2 cups beef stock
  • ¼ cup sliced pepperoncinis plus ¼ cup of the juice
  • 2 bay leaves

Giardinara (optional condiment)

1. Prep…Heat the oil the pressure cooker post over medium high heat.

2. Prep the meat…Trim 2#roast. Cut in fourths. Season with salt and pepper.Brown meat of both sides. Add to the pot.

3. Make the au jus…Add onion, 2 bell peppers, garlic to pan used for browning the meat. Sauté five minutes. Add to pot…along with red pepper, Worcestershire Sauce, beef stock, pepperoncini, and dressing mix.

4. Cook the meat…Raise heat to high. Bring to high pressure. Adjust the heat to maintain high pressure. Set time for 40 minutes. When time is up, let the heat come down on its own for ten minutes. Then do a quick release.

5. Shred the meat…Remove the meat to a plate or cutting board.Let it rest for ten minutes. Use two forks to shred the meat.Add the meat back into the juice. (Chilling the meat overnight in the refrigerator makes the meat easier to thinly slice.)

6. Serve the sandwiches…Spread deli French or sourdough roll with butter. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Toast, face side up, until slightly golden. Serve with provolone cheese and giardinara.

 

Finally…(perhaps the best part of the meal)…Desserts

Being a true typical Southerner, you can never have enough dessert recipes in your collection…so here are a few options…

  1. Watermelon Pie…The Chew
  2. Chewy S’Mores Bars…Bakerita
  3. Lemon Cream Icebox Cake…The Kitchn
  4. Pecan Pie Brownies…Mr. Food

 

Oh Yeah, By the Way—Beverages

As important as food may be, drinks can be even more important on a hot summer day in Texas…

As far as serving beverages…Placing beverages on a separate table from the food will make it easier for guests to refill their drinks, without pressing through the buffet line and also help guests spread more evenly throughout a large space.

Also be sure to offer an assortment of kid-friendly and adult beverages, such as bottled water and juice….

Here are a few ideas of super sippers for a sensational summer setting…

 

 

Making Dinner Plans, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Silan Chicken

Silan,  also referred to as Israeli date honey, is a rich syrup made from dates.

Silan has a dark chestnut color, darker than maple syrup, about the color of cola….a taste similar to molasses….and a texture that is as thick as molasses but more fluid than bee honey.

You can find at local “kosher” markets, but even living here in DFW, I have no idea where one of those would be and it would be much easier to order it while still wearing my pajamas online from such retailers as World of Judaica or Date Lady.

Just be sure to stay away from the varieties with added sugar—those can be too sweet and lack the authentic flavor of the kind found in Israel.

One of the most common recipes using silan is Silan Chicken…had this for dinner last night, making it again tonight perhaps because it was so very good and there are no leftovers.

  • 4# chicken legs or thighs
  • 1 cup silan
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp tamarind or soy sauce
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock

Maranating…Prepare a 9- x 13 baking dish. Mix together the silan, oil, brown sugar, tamarind, garlic, and chicken stock. Place the chicken in a foil-lined roasting or baking pan. Rub the chicken pieces with vegetable oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper if desired. Place in the refrigerator to marinate overnight.

Baking…Bake for an hour, uncovered, brushing the chicken with the sauce every fifteen minutes. Increase oven temp to 375°F. Bake for another thirty minutes.

Making Dinner Plans

Baking

Eggs are one of the main ingredients used in baking, and so the first topic in this “Taking Up Baking” series of posts.Eggs consist of three main parts—a fragile and porous shell, the yolk, the egg white—plus membranes and chalazae, two white strands that hold the yolk in the center of the white.

Eggs carry out many functions in the baking process, including…
1. Adding flavor…Eggs add a unique taste and flavor to baked goods.
2. Emulsifying…Eggs help make batter smooth.
3. Giving a proper finish…Egg whites and egg yolks are used as washes on baked goods like croissants an anish pastries…and on rustic breads to hold sesame seeds and other accouterments in place.
4. Leavening: Eggs trap air cells in whipped eggs or egg whites… important for angel food and chiffon cakes.
5. Moistening…About 3/4’s of an egg by weight is water, so when you add eggs to batter, you add a great deal of water into the batter.
6. Providing color…Most lemon meringue pie recipes rely entirely on egg yolks for color.
7. Providing nutrition…Eggs add nutritional value such as protein, Vitamin D, and choline (an important nutrient for the brain, nervous system, and cardiovascular system).
8. Providing structure…As eggs cook, the protein coagulates and provides stiffness to the product.
9. Tenderizing…The fat in the egg yolk tenderizes the batter by shortening the gluten strands.
Pâte à Choux
Pâte à Choux is a light pastry dough that contains only butter, water, flour and eggs…but no “raising agent.”
Steam created by boiling the water and butter, puffs the pastry instead…and then flour and eggs are added to achieve the desired consistency.
Choux pastry, or pâte à choux, has been used as early as 1540 in many European and European-derived cuisines….such as…

Chicken and Dumplings is perhaps one of the most familiar Southern comfort foods. Chicken and Dumplings is a staple main dish recipe in many Southern kitchens because the dish is delicious, satisfying, economical, and easy.Yet many people find the dumplings to be dough-y, thick, strangely flavourless un-cooked balls of dough.Instead of the traditional dumplings, here is a recipe for Chicken and Dumplings using the cream puff dough that we have been discussing lately, known as pâte à choux, mixed with plenty of fresh herbs.
1. Making the Dumplings…Combine 1C milk or water, 4oz butter, 1tsp salt in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil.Add 1C flour.Reduce the heat to medium, stirring rapidly to make a thick paste. Cook the dough 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Transfer the dough to a stand mixer.Add 3 eggs, 1Tbsp Dijon mustard, 2Tbsp parsley, ½C Swiss or parmesan cheese, 1Tbsp minced tarragon, 1Tbsp minced chives.Wait 30min.

2. Making the Broth..Cook one diced onion, 2 large diced carrots, 2 diced celery ribs, in 3Tbsp butter over medium heat until translucent. Add one quart chicken broth. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low. Add 1tsp salt, 1 bay leaf, 1Tbsp tomato paste, pepper, lemon juice, 1/2tsp honey, 1 bay leaf, 1 sprig of thyme, 1 small garlic clove, 1/2tsp Dijon mustard, 1/2Tbsp parsley.Reduce the heat. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.Add one quart chicken stock.Simmer for 30 minutes., then strain the soup base into another pot and discard the vegetables.

4. Cooking the Chicken…Roast boneless skinless chicken thighs in a very hot oven for 20min.

5. Cooking the Dumplings…Fill a medium sized pot with salted water. Bring to a simmer.Fill a quart-sized Ziploc bag with the dough.Cut off one corner of the bag to make a quarter-sized opening.Pipe 1″ of the mixture. Cut with kitchen shears directly over the broth. The dumplings will sink to the bottom of the pot and then float to the top. Once the dumplings rise to the surface, cook an additional 10 minutes to ensure that they are cooked.

Note…The dumplings can be made up to a day ahead and refrigerated, or frozen. In this case, scoop them from the poaching water with a slotted spoon and let cool on a paper towel-lined cookie sheet.
6. Making the Soup…Turn off the heat. Add the meat. Wait a couple of minutes before serving.

Another pastry made with choux dough is the classic eclair.
The éclair, originally called “pain à la Duchesse”or “petite duchesse,” were first made by Antonin Carême, the famous French chef, around 1850. The first known English-language recipe for éclairs appears in the Boston Cooking School Cook Book by Mrs. D.A. Lincoln, published in 1884.Eventually the pastries came to be known as éclairs…the French word meaning ‘flash of lightning’…because the eclair is supposedly eaten quickly, or “in a flash.”The classic eclair consists of a crispy golden shell of pâte à choux, a rich pudding-like filling of vanilla pastry cream, and a chocolate ganache glaze on top..And a batch of eclairs takes about the same amount of time to make as required to make a batch of homemade cinnamon rolls. So let’s “Take Up Baking”…

1. Making the Eclair Shells…The ingredients in pâte à choux are simple–merely milk, water, eggs, butter, flour, sugar, and salt…but actually making the pâte à choux and the eclair shells is probably the most intimidating piece of the puzzle.

2. Starting the choux dough on top of the stove…Bring 1C water, 8Tbsp butter, 1/2tsp salt, 1-1/2tsp sugar to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat. Add 1 cup flour. Stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Using a spoon instead of a whisk or fork will keep the flour from getting stuck in the tines.Return to the heat. Cook, stirring constantly until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan and forms a thick smooth ball… about 2 minutes. At this point, move the dough from the stove to the mixing bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Controlling the amount of air that gets worked into pâte à choux dough is crucial…because too much air will make the shells either crack in the oven or explode and collapse. Using a paddle attachment and mixing at a slow speed will keep both the amount of air in the eggs and the amount of air in the choux at a minimum.
3. Finishing the choux dough in the mixer…Beat on low speed one minute.Add three eggs, one by one, making sure each egg is completely emulsified before adding the next. As you add the egg, the dough will at first break apart, but as you continue to beat it will come back together.Continue to mix until you have a smooth, glossy, thick paste-like dough…and the eggs are completely incorporated. The dough should be thick, but should fall slowly and steadily from the beaters when you lift them out of the bowl. If the dough is still clinging to the beaters, add the fourth remaining egg.It is important that you only add as much egg as the dough will hold. If you add too many eggs, you will have trouble piping the dough, and the pastries will have trouble puffing and drying out in the oven.If the dough is ready, it will look soft, creamy-colored, and very smooth…and will leave behind a little “V” of dough on the spatula if you scoop up a little bit with your spatula and let it slide back into the bowl.Spread the mixture onto a sheet pan and cover with Saran Wrap until cooled to room temperature.

4. Piping the Shells…Draw a dozen 3-1/2″ lines on a piece of parchment paper, spacing the lines about 3″ apart. This will serve as a template or guide.Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the template under the parchment paper.Place the dough in a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip.Pipe eight to twelve oblong lengths of dough, about the size and shape of a jumbo hot dog, onto the lined baking sheet using the template as a guide.Whisk an egg and water together in a bowlto create an egg wash. Brush the surface of each eclair with the egg wash. This gives the pastry a lovely golden brown sheen and allows you to smoothe out any imperfections on the surface of the pastry.

5. Baking the Shells…Preheat oven to 475. Bake 15 minutes. Starting the baking process at a very high heat allows the steam from the butter and eggs in the dough to expand very quickly, which creates the space for the filling, the most important thing about an éclair.Remove shells from oven. Let cool to room temperatureReduce the oven temperature to 350.Bake shells 15 more minutes. Baking the éclair shells this second time dries out the choux and makes the shells extra firm and crispy.The shells are ready once they are a nice light golden brown color and are almost dry inside when splitRemove from oven. Place on a wire rack to cool.Poke each of the shells with a toothpick to release any steam trapped inside.Let them cool completely before filling them.

6. Making the Filling …Eclairs may now be filled with chiboust cream…chocolate, coffee, pistachio, rum, or vanilla custard…fruit-flavoured filling…lemon curd…pastry cream..or whipped cream.

Eclair Filling…Heat 2C milk and 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, to a boil over medium heat. Immediately turn off the heat. Set aside to infuse for 15 minutes. Whisk six egg yolks and 2/3C sugar until light and fluffy. Add 1/4C cornstarch. Whisk in 1/4C of the hot milk mixture vigorously until no lumps remain. Whisk in the remaining hot milk mixture. Pour the mixture through a strainer back into the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until milk starts to foam up. Remove from heat. Stir in 1Tbsp cold unsalted butter.
For a chocolate pastry cream, simply stir two ounces of finely chopped semi-sweet chocolate into the hot pastry cream.
For a mocha flavor add 1 1/2tsp instant coffee or espresso powder.
Cover with plastic wrap, lightly pressing the plastic against the surface to prevent a skin from forming.
Cool to room temperature or refrigerate up to 24 hours.
7. Filling the Eclair Shells…Split the pastry shells in half, lengthwise. Place pastry cream into a piping bag. Fit the piping bag with a medium-size plain tip. Pipe filling into each eclair shell. Use just enough filling to fill the inside…Don’t stuff them full.

8. Making the Glaze…The final step is to ice or glaze the eclairs with vanilla, caramel, brown sugar, or chocolate glaze. Caramel-glazed eclairs are often referred to as bâton de Jacob.

Chocolate Glaze…Heat 1/2C heavy cream over medium heat just until it boils. Immediately pour it over 4oz coarsely chopped semisweet chocolate. Stir in 1tsp vanilla extract. Whisk until melted and smooth. Cover.Glaze can be made up and stored in the refrigerator up to 48 hours in advance. Rewarm in a microwave or over hot water when ready to use.
Dip the top halves of the eclair shells in the warm glaze, letting the excess drip off. Place on a wire rack to dry for ten minutes.
9. Assembling the Eclairs…Once the glaze is dry, gently place the top half of the pastry shell on the cream. Spread icing over the top of each. Let sit for about 5-10 , until the icing hardens, before serving.Chill, uncovered, at least 1 hour to set the glaze. Serve chilled.

Finished eclairs can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to two days…if they last that long…

Churros are another type of pastry made from choux pastry…but in the case of Churros, the choux pastry is fried, instead of baked.
The churro was first made by Spanish shepherds, because the churros were easy to make and cook over an open fire in the mountains, where the shepherds spend most of their time.Today churros are standard “street fare” in American theme parks, street fairs, carnivals, and other celebrations.Churros are crunchy, fried pastry sprinkled with sugar and then dipped in a thick hot chocolate sauce.
Churros (Yield: About 18 6″ churros)

1. Make the dough…2C wate, 3Tbsp butter, 2Tbsp sugar, 1tsp vanilla , 1/2tsp salt, 2C flour, 2 large eggs…Heat water, butter, sugar, vanilla and salt in a medium-size saucepan until simmering and butter has melted. Remove from heat. Dump in flour all at once. Mix vigorously with a spoon until the mixture forms a smooth ball and no floury bits are visible.Let cool 5 to 10 minutes.Add eggs, one at a time. Choux dough can be made and kept in bowl for up to a day before using, but it will be easier to pipe when it’s still warm.

2. Pipe the churros..Transfer churro dough to a cloth pastry bag fitted with a #8 large closed star pastry tip. (This pastry tip is what gives the churros the expected textured lines.)Be sure to use a cloth or heavy-duty plastic pastry bag,. A regular resealable plastic bag is not thick enough and will split open if you try to pipe the churro dough through it.
Pipe the churros in 6″ directly into a pot of boiling water…or onto cookie sheets.If piping onto a cookie sheet, place the tray of shaped churros into the fridge for at least 15 minutes before frying them.

3. Fry the churros…Heat oven to 200 degrees to keep churros warm while you fry them in batches.Line a large plate with a couple layers of paper towels. Add 1-1/2″ oil to Dutch oven. Heat oil over medium/medium-high heat to 375.Pipe two to three churros into the oil at a time. Use scissors or a sharp knife to cut the dough.Fry 6 minutes, turning frequently, until they turn deep golden brown on all sides.Remove from oil. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate to drain for a couple of minutes before transferring to a cookie sheet in a 200 degree oven to keep warm.
Repeat with remaining dough.

4. Coat the churros…2/3C sugar, 1-1/4tsp cinnamon Once all churros are fried, combine cinnamon and sugar on a plate. Roll warm churros, one by one.Churros can be kept warm in oven before coating with cinnamon sugar for up to an hour before getting dry.

5. Make the sauce: Make the chocolate sauce right before you’re ready to serve it with the churros because it will thicken as it cools….3/4C heavy cream, 1/2 cup chocolate chips, Pinch salt…Heat cream, chocolate chips, and salt in a bowl in microwave in 30 second bursts, whisking between them, until chocolate has melted.Dip warm churros in warm chocolate sauce.Enjoy!

Chouquettes are a type of cream puff consisting of a small round, hollow portion of choux pastry covered with crunchy nuggets of large-grain pearl sugar … baked until golden brown…and sometimes filled with custard or mousse, dipped in chocolate, or covered in chocolate chips.The pearl sugar is the key ingredient in chouquettes and gives the puffs their signature crunch. Swedish Pearl Sugar is available online at King Arthur Flour at a cost of $6.95 per 12oz.Pearl sugar is a bright-white, irregular chunky sugar that won’t melt or burn when added to the top of Panettone, sweet breads, iced cookies, and cakes.Crushed sugar cubes may also be used instead as a last resortChocolate chips may also be pressed into a few of the puffs before baking.

Chouquettes (Sugar-Topped Pastry Puffs…1-1/2C water, 1 stick + 1Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into cubes, 1tsp sugar, 1/2tsp salt, 1 1/2C flou, 7 large eggsPearl sugar

Prep…Preheat the oven to 400°. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.Combine the water, butter, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderate. Add the flour all at once. Stir vigorously 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.Beat 7 eggs. Add to the dough in four batches, stirring vigorously between additions until the eggs are completely incorporated and the dough is glossy.Transfer dough to a piping bag fitted with a 1/2″ plain tip. Pipe 1 1/2″ mounds onto the baking sheets, leaving 1″ between them. Generously sprinkle each mound with 1/2tsp pearl sugar. Bake 30min.The baked choux can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three days and rewarded in a 325° oven for 10 minutes.
Chouquettes are a type of cream puff consisting of a small round, hollow portion of choux pastry covered with crunchy nuggets of large-grain pearl sugar … baked until golden brown…and sometimes filled with custard or mousse, dipped in chocolate, or covered in chocolate chips.The pearl sugar is the key ingredient in chouquettes and gives the puffs their signature crunch. Swedish Pearl Sugar is available online at King Arthur Flour at a cost of $6.95 per 12ozPearl sugar is a bright-white, irregular chunky sugar that won’t melt or burn when added to the top of Panettone, sweet breads, iced cookies, and cakes.Crushed sugar cubes may also be used instead as a last resort.Chocolate chips may also be pressed into a few of the puffs before baking.

 

Chouquettes (Sugar-Topped Pastry Puffs)
1-1/2C water, 1 stick + 1Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into cubes, 1tsp sugar, 1/2tsp salt, 1 1/2C flou, 7 large eggsPearl sugar

Prep…Preheat the oven to 400°. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.Combine the water, butter, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderate. Add the flour all at once. Stir vigorously 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.Beat 7 eggs. Add to the dough in four batches, stirring vigorously between additions until the eggs are completely incorporated and the dough is glossy.Transfer dough to a piping bag fitted with a 1/2″ plain tip. Pipe 1 1/2″ mounds onto the baking sheets, leaving 1″ between them. Generously sprinkle each mound with 1/2tsp pearl sugar. Bake 30min.
The baked choux can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three days and rewarded in a 325° oven for 10 minutes.

Learning the basic techniques behind good cooking, such as how to make a good pâte à choux, is far more important than mastering a specific recipe.

As shown in recent posts, this dough can be piped into decorative logs and filled with pastry cream to make eclairs…sandwiched with dollops of chantilly or ice cream to make cream puffs or profiteroles…deep-fried to make light and puffy beignets…or mixed with herbs and cheese and baked for savory gougères.
Regardless of what you are making, the basic technique behind making pâte à choux remains the same…
First, boil water and butter in a saucepan…then dump in flour all at once and stir it vigorously with a wooden spoon until a smooth ball of dough forms. Finish making the dough by adding eggs and beating the dough until creating a sticky, paste-like dough that holds itself together just well enough to be piped from a piping bag.
Today we will be talking about Parisian gnocchi.

Parisian-style gnocchi are very different than the traditional Italian potato version and actually easier to prepare.
Parisian-style gnocchi are made by piping the pâte à choux directly into boiling water, cooking until they rise to the surface, and finally searing them lightly to create texture.
Parisian Gnocch… 1tsp salt, 1⁄4tsp nutmeg, 3 Tbsp butter, 1C flour, 3 large eggs, 1⁄4 cup freshly grated parmesan, gruyere, or asiago cheese

1. Making the Dough…Combine water, salt, nutmeg, and 2Tbsp of the butter in a small saucepan. Bring to boil over high heat. Add flour all at once. Beat dough with wooden spoon until thick. Cook, stirring to dry out dough, about 30 seconds.Beat 1 egg into dough until incorporated. Beat in 1/4 cup cheese and another egg until blended. Beat in last egg until dough is smooth and shiny. At this point you may also add chopped fresh herbs–chervil, chives, parsley and tarragon-for a more savoury version.Gnocchi dough can be refrigerated overnight before boiling and baking.

2. Cooking the Gnocchi…Transfer dough to medium bowl. Let cool 5 minutes.Bring large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Set bowl of ice water near stove.Transfer dough to large pastry bag.Reduce boiling water to gentle simmer. Hold bag over water with one hand. Squeeze out dough into the water, using a small sharp knife to cut it into 1-1/2″ lengths.Simmer gnocchi 3 minutes. Drop cooked gnocchi into nearby bowl of ice water. Drain on paper towel-lined baking sheets. Drizzle with olive oil. Allow to cool.Cooked gnocchi can be transferred to a sealed container and stored in the refrigerator for up to a few days until you’re ready to fry or broil them just before serving.

3. Finishing the Gnocchi…The next step and the toppings for the gnocchi now are totally a matter of personal choice. you may bake them, broil them, or Sauteeing them in butter.

Baking…Grease 9×13 baking dish with 1Tbsp butter. Scoop gnocchi into the dish.Top with 2Tbsp cheese. Bake 25 minutes.
Broiling…Preheat broiler. Broil gnocchi 6″ from heat for 1 to 2 minutes. …
Searing…Add gnocchi to aa very hot skillet. Add just enough butter to cover them. Top with finely grated Parmesan cheese. Cook over high heat for thirty seconds. Be careful not to agitate them too much when searing. As they heat, they get even more tender.
Sautéeing…Sautée gnocchi with butter, lemon, and fresh parsley.
The gnocchi can now be used as a blank palate for any number of seasonally-based pasta dishes….just like any other type of pasta.

As most other treats made with choux dough-croquembouches, éclairs, French crullers, beignets, St. Honoré cake, quenelles, Parisian gnocchi, dumplings, gougères, chouquettes and craquelins-making profiterole requires that you first prepare the choux pastry dough.Next you either pipe the dough through a pastry bag and bake to form hollow puffs, or drop the dough into small balls into boiling water to cook.

Profiterole are typically filled with a typically sweet and moist filling, such as whipped cream, custard, pastry cream, or ice cream….but may also be served as savory items by filling the shells with pureed meats and cheese.Profiterole then may be left plain or garnished with chocolate ganache, caramel glaze, or a dusting of powdered sugar. Profiterole are the building blocks for both croquembouches and the outer wall of St. Honoré Cake.
Profiterole

1.  Prep
…Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a pastry bag with a 1/2″ plain round tip. Line two rimmed baking sheets with baking parchment.

2.  Make the Dough…
1C milk, 1/4tsp salt, 1C water, 8Tbsp butter, 5 eggs, Pinch cinnamon…Bring the milk, butter, and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Whisk together the flour and salt. Once the butter melts, reduce the heat. Add the flour mixture to the saucepan all at once. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together and forms a dough. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl. Let cool for 4 minutes. The mixture does not have to be cold, just cool enough not to cook the eggs when added. Add the eggs. Mix until the dough is smooth and glossy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add cinnamon.

3.  Piping the Dough…Spoon the dough into the pastry bag.  Pipe into 18 puffs, each 1-1/2″ wide x 1 ” high onto the baking sheet, spacing at least 1″ between each. Dip your finger in water and smooth the top of each ball where the pastry bag released the dough.

Note…The dough can be frozen at this point on the tray then collected into freezer bags and sealed.

4.  Baking the Profiterole …Bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned, rotating the tray halfway through the cooking time to insure even cooking. Turn off the oven. Allow them to sit in the oven for another 10 minutes.When done, the puffs should be light, airy and dry inside…and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Make a small slit in the side of each puff to allow the steam to escape.  Set on a wire rack to cool. Cool completely before icing.


5.  Making the Chocolate Sauce..
1/2C heavy cream12oz semisweet chocolate chips2Tbsp honey2Tbsp prepared coffee…Bring a saucepan with 1″ of water to a boil.  Place the cream and chocolate chips in a metal or heatproof glass mixing bowl. Place the bowl on top of the saucepan with boiling water, being careful that the mixing bowl does not actually touch the surface of the boiling water. Stir just until the chocolate melts and everything is combined. Add the honey and coffee. Stir until smooth. Remove bowl from heat once the chocolate has melted.

6.  Serving the profiterole…Cut each profiterole in half horizontally. Fill each with a small scoop of high-quality vanilla ice cream. Replace the top. Drizzle with  warm chocolate sauce.

 

Gougères are another pastry made from the classic French pâte à choux.These baked savory pastries are made with a generous amount of grated Gruyère, Comté, or Emmentaler cheese folded into the dough before baking. They are said to have come from Burgundy, particularly the town of Tonnerre in the Yonne department, where they are generally served cold when tasting wine in cellars.Earlier forms of gougères were more a stew than a pastry, including herbs, bacon, eggs, cheese, spices, and meat mixed with an animal’s blood, and prepared in a sheep’s stomach. In medieval France, gougères we’re a kind of cheese tart or pie. Later, gougères were unknown outside what is now Belgium, and became associated with Palm Sunday.Gougères can be served as an alternative to dinner rolls, offered as an appetizer, or stuffed with deli meat to make sandwiches.Gougères are loved by everyone, including children…can be made weeks in advance or an hour before you need them…are transformed easily by using different cheeses, herbs and spices…and are made from everyday items you most likely have on hand at all timesDrier cheeses— Parmesan, Asiago, or Manchego—make better gougères because there is less moisture to drive out during baking, and they puff just a little bit better in the oven, making for crispier gougères.

Cheese Gougères…1C water, 8Tbsp butter, 1/2tsp salt, 1/2tsp mustard, 1C flour, 4 eggs, 1 1/2C grated cheese

1. Preparing to Bake…Preheat oven to 450°F. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
2. Making the Dough…Place the water, butter, salt, and mustard in a 4-quart saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, stirring to melt the butter. Cook until the butter melts.
Remove the pan from heat. Add the flour. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together and resembles mashed potatoes.
Return the pan to medium-low heat. Cook 5 minutes to dry out the dough. The dough is ready when it is thick enough to hold a spoon upright and a film of starch forms on the bottom of the pan. If the batter is too loose when you begin incorporating the eggs, the dough will not puff properly come baking time.Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.Allow the dough to cool for two minutes. Add the eggs, one a time, fully incorporating each one before adding another. Scrape down the bowl each time and check the consistency of the paste. It should be stiff enough to stand, but soft enough to spread. Add the cheese.
3. Piping the Gougères…Gougères can be made any size…smaller ones are great as appetizers… larger ones can be used to make sandwiches.Drop dough onto the baking sheets, using an ice cream scoop, two spoons, or piping bag fitted with a wide round tip.Be sure to leave an inch of space around all sides of your gougères to keep them from sticking together.

4. Baking the Gougres…Bake 5 minutes.Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Bake 25 more minutes.

Turn off the heat. Allow the pastry to stand in the closed oven for 15 minutes so the insides can thoroughly dry out. Transfer the baking sheets to a cooling rack. Finished gougères will be deep golden-brown, and will feel light and hollow when picked up.Serve warm or at room temperature.Gougères may be baked up to three hours in advance and reheated in a 350 degrees oven for five minutes just before serving. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days or frozen for up to three months. Re-crisp in a warm oven before serving.