Happy New Year! 

It’s mid-afternoon here in sunny, but crispy cold Placerville, California…and as I sit here in the wee corner desk in the kitchen of my humble abode, I clearly contemplate on the many great days, as, too, of the trials and tribulations that has bestowed my life throughout the past year.  Moving forward, I focus not on a ‘resolution’ for the new year but on goals for the next 364 1/2 days left of 2013…

Although I have kept myself busy in the kitchen since my last post, I’ve managed to stumble upon the Holidays writer’s block.  Thus, in the midst of playing around with the idea of what to do with the left-over pot roast from last’s night’s (or two days ago) dinner and in collaboration with my wonderful husband, we bring to you today The Cooking Apprentice’s first recipe share of the year….

Looking for something fancy and fabulous to bake and gift for the holidays?   Well, with a little imagination and creativity take a few simple ingredients such as flour, sugar, butter and eggs and get ready to strut their stuff in the kitchen!

Now, do you remember those wonderful glasses with a pattern-etched stamp or glass?  I know I do, only I remember them being back at my parents home when I was about 8 years old.  Well, who would have thought that these wonderful glasses would add touch of elegance to cookies?

I don’t care much for ‘sweet potatoes’ in general, so it’s really not something you will find at my home often, if at all…with the exception of an intent to make sweet potato fries!

My first encounter with sweet potato fries was only a few months ago when I decided to venture at the frozen section of the Supermarket.  There was a 2 for $7 sale on frozen, organic sweet potato fries.  I figured, it wouldn’t hurt, right? 

Here we are once again, perusing through the website for the inevitable dessert after a nice comfort meal.  Lately, in my neck of the woods, heavy rain has set in, along with rolling fogs that settle amidst the foothills of our property.  Quite a beautiful sight to enjoy, alongside my big cup of coffee.  It is also days like this when it calls for a semi or no-bake culinary muse in my kitchen!  So once again, I turn back to one of my favorite food blogger extraordinaire, Stella Dacuma Schour  of Cooking with Stellaaa, whose motto “I cook with feelings and without exact measurements” coincides with my culinary philosophy of reinventing a recipe in the simplest way possible and with heart.  In Stella’s original recipe, without a doubt, she definitely had me at ‘No-Bake Honey Cheesecake’.

Without further adieu, in the spirit of creativity without the hazzle, below is my version of this delectable dessert.  Do enjoy!–gcc

Coconut Pandesal
Ube Pandesal

Pándesal (Spanish: pan de sal, “salt bread”) is a bread roll made of flour, eggs, yeast, sugar, and salt.

It has become a common food item in the Philippines.[1]  Its taste and texture closely resemble those of the Puerto Rican bread pan de agua and Mexican bolillos. These breads all use a lean type of dough and follow similar techniques learnt from Spaniards or Spanish-trained bakers early in their history.  Despite the Spanish origins of its name, pandesal was introduced in the Philippines in the 16th century.[2] Pandesal originally started out as a plain roll, traditionally served for breakfast and accompanied by butter, cheese, scrambled eggs or filled omelette, sausages, bacon, Spanish sardines, jams, jellies and marmalade, coffee, tea or hot chocolate.

Pandesal can be made from any type of dough and still resemble pandesal as long as the dough is rolled in fine breadcrumbs before baking. The softness of the newer type of pandesal—which consumers unaware of the proper texture now find desirable—is due to a weak dough structure derived from inferior quality flour.

A couple of pandesal variety I made for you are Ube Pandesal and Coconut Pandesal.

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Door bells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into Springs
These are a few of my favorite things

When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad.

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Door bells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into Springs
These are a few of my favorite things

When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad…

The Sound of Music Lyrics of My Favorite Things

I cannot begin to tell you how much I adore A Country Cook’s Kitchen cookbook!  The author has done a tremendous job putting together timeless, rustic recipes from making artisanal breads, farm-house-style cheeses, preserving vegetables, curing meats, churning your own butter and soft cheese, baking cakes, pastries and biscuits…not too mention the page-turning arrays of heirloom, artisanal and organic food photography.  I am not a sponsor of this cookbook, nor any of the others I might have mentioned or will mention in the future–to make that clear, but my rule of thumb is, if I find something worth sharing…word of mouth is truly the key to do so.  Pay it forward, right?

Onward, one of the culinary skills I am trying to hone into is bread making, thus, whenever I post something on Instagram with regards to making bread, I immediately title it Bread-Making 101 because I am at the novice stage of baking.  You can only imagine the excitement I feel after peaking through the lit oven door and watching the development of the dough as it swells and rise before my eyes!  It was beyond exhilarating…

Hmm, where do I begin?  Beautiful Breads & Fabulous Fillings (The Best Sandwiches in America) by Margaux Sky. I don’t quite remember when and where I found this book but I love it!  An older recipe book written in 2006 and I purchased it about two years ago when we first began our cooking and baking frenzy at home.  There are a couple of bread recipes in this book I really like and one in particular that my older son has made in the past.

I, on the other hand, have only tried ‘baking’ a few months ago, when we moved into our new home.  Yesterday, I took out this cookbook that has remained untouched in the pantry for about the same duration as when we moved in!  Upon the revisit, I immediately opened it to the same bread recipe I have been wanting to bake for myself…Sweet French Loaf.

This recipe came as an inspiration from a fellow food blogger, Instagram follower and foremost an avid foodie, like myself!  Anna (aka Bambi) of Adobo Down Under posted a photo of her delicious “Really Moist Banana Bread/Cake” recipe on Instagram one day, and I thought to myself…I’ve got bananas sitting on our kitchen counter doing nothing!  So out of her recipe came an idea for banana bread pudding–which, coincidently, I have never tackled ‘bread pudding‘.  So, also with a little tip from hubby, and an ode to Bambi’s inspiration…off for some baking I went 😉

(By the way…check out Bambi’s recipe for Really Moist Banana Bread/Cake on her blog site!)

After a few trials and minor errors (but I’m not counting), I can finally proudly present my first successful Macarons! (Macarons á la vanille) with a mascarpone cream filling.  The macaron recipe is inspired from The French Kitchen Cookbook and the filling recipe is from Cupcakes Galore cookbook.

I was excited to try my new cookbook ‘macaroons30 recipes for perfect bite-size treats so I flipped through the pages and thought to find the ideal and most delectable treat to bake–well, I was hopeful anyway.  So once again, off to our kitchen pantry I go, as well as, to the refrigerator , taking out everything I need.  Everything was going smoothly BUT somewhere along the way, the texture of the meringue just didn’t look right.  Instead of a thick, ribbon-like consistency, I got more of a cookie dough texture.  Not sure where things went wrong, but rather than tossing everything out and starting over, which I would never do, I simply scooped the cookie dough-like meringue onto the baking sheets and followed the remaining instruction for the meringue recipe from the cookbook.  The results, well…you tell me 😉

Since I watched the last episode of Master Chef (currently on FOX Season 3) when Monti Carlo (one of the home cook contestants and…that’s probably not her real name, really?  Monti Carlo, anyway…) made a Scotch Egg on one of the challenges; and actually got great accolades from Chef Gordon Ramsay, I have had an inkling to make them.  Well, today (Sunday) was the day!

I want to emphasize that my style of cooking is ‘free range‘…meaning, I try to make it my own unique style, but with the guidance of a recipe.  So on this note, I found a wonderful chicken recipe from bon appetit magazine with an emphasis on heirloom tomatoes–which I happen to just purchase a few days ago from our local farmers market.  I wanted to use them for something special, so I made a roasted chicken, using these beautiful heirloom tomatoes, a certified organic whole chicken, a variety of herbs and spices for my dish.  Below, I am going to give you the basis of the recipe and ingredients, and give you the option for making my version (as pictured) of the same recipe.

Saturday late afternoon, hubby, my 9-year old and I were invited to a friend’s house to shoot the breeze–both metaphorically and literally!  George, our friend, who was also our realtor when we initially met, (We met George when we were house hunting summer of last year) invited us to come over, meet the girlfriend, meet the family and do some target shooting in their property.  So what does all this have to do with fruit tarts?