Sunday, February 28, 2010

Stori - food challenge throwdown!

I went on a marvelous date today.

Monday is my nephew, Orin's, birthday. I needed to go to town to pick up a gift for him, my dad didn't want to go, my husband felt like staying at home. I left the 2 little kids with him and Paige and I went to town for a girl trip. Since it was just us two, I offered for us to go out to breakfast. Paige never turns down an opportunity to go out to eat.

There is a place in Fairbanks that is known for great breakfast called The Cookie Jar. I had only been there once before with Marc several years ago. I was not impressed either time. This place was recently featured on The Food Network show "Drivers, Drive-Ins, and Dives". The host went on and on about The Cookie Jar's famous cinnamon rolls. Shortly after being seated, the waitress even mentioned how wonderful they were and a what a perfect start to a Sunday morning. Paige didn't need any more encouragement than that.

I have changed my bread baking habits lately which in turn has produced several treats for my family. In the past, I always made my bread in 6 loaf batches. Leaving 1 or 2 thawed out and freezing the rest. It only takes us about 8 to 9 days to eat all 6 loaves, but the cold even permeates my outside freezer to the point where it will dry out the frozen bread pretty badly during the winter. To fix this, I have decided to cut down on my batch size and only make enough for 3 smaller loaves. I have been turning the batch into 2 loaves of bread and the remaining 1/3 gets put to good use as cinnamon rolls. These do not last long in this house.

After a horribly long wait, which included a full 40 minutes before even the 1st cup of coffee showed up, our breakfast arrived. I ordered biscuits and gravy, and Paige ordered a slice of french toast and a $4 cinnamon roll. Out came this monstrosity of a pastry, served on a big plate along with a steak knife. Paige knew there was no chance of her finishing off the entire thing, but was willing to give it her best shot. She cuts into this huge thing and takes a bite.......looks up at me....looks back down at her roll....back up at me....takes another bite...puts down her fork. I'm waiting to what my restaurant loving daughter's verdict would be. "This isn't very good Mom." she says. "Yours is way better!"

HA! Take that Guy Fieti!

Having to try the test myself, I try a bite. Paige was right. It wasn't very good. Was this what all the hoopla about? The bread was tough and chewy. The frosting more bland than sweet. A disappointing lack of cinnamon. What a let down. Paige took the remaining roll home to let her dad try. He only took one bite and stopped. He agreed. Mine is way better.

Now this is the point where I should dutifully jot down my recipe for home made cinnamon rolls. Nuh-uh, not gonna do it. The perfect cinnamon roll is so embarrassingly simple, I would be ashamed to put it down. Besides that, if I told how easy it was, I would lose my tricky baking reputation.

Instead, I'm including a different recipe. This is what I fixed tonight for supper. After our disappointing breakfast, we braved a trip to Walmart for a birthday gift. While there I seen they had a some half decent fresh asparagus and some nice little cremini mushrooms. These two ingredients sparked an idea for my potato chowder to be added to the menu. Although I claim the use of portebello mushrooms in this soup, creminins are nothing more than baby portebellos. Easier to prep and a lot cheaper than their grown up counter parts, they are one of my favorite shrooms to cook with.

Potato Chowder with asparagus and portebello mushrooms
(measurements are approximate since I don't measure anything)

6 good sized potatoes- peeled, washed, and cubed
1/2 onion- chopped
3 stalks celery- ribbed and chopped
3 cloves garlic- peeled and minced
1 bunch fresh asparagus- cut into 1 inch lengths
1 container cremini mushrooms- sliced
1/2 lb. bacon -cut into pieces and cooked crisp (optional! especially for Debi)
approx. 4 to 6 cups milk
1 tsp sage
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp basil
about 1/2 cup flour

In a large pot, barely cover cubed potatoes with salted water and put on to boil. Put in the already crisped bacon into the potato pot. In a skillet, saute in margarine (or butter) the onions and celery till transparent. Right before they are done, add the garlic and sautee only till you can smell it. Add into potato pot. Next sautee the asparagus and mushrooms in butter till asparagus is bright green and mushrooms are still a bit firm. Add to potato pot. Add the seasonings and stir. Keep potatoes on a slow slimmer for about 20 to 30 minutes. You will want the potatoes to stay firm. Pour in about half the milk, stirring constantly. Bring back to simmer. In separate bowl, whisk together the flour and remaining milk. Pour milk/flour mixture into potatoes very slowly stirring the entire time. Bring back to simmer. If soup is too thick, thin it down with a little more milk. If too thin, do another blend of flour and milk. Taste and season with more salt desired.
Serve with toasted garlic bread or croutons.

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