Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies with Caramel and Sea Salt

It's hard to go far wrong with chocolate and caramel. These were in Sunset magazine's Christmas cookie collection this year...though I wouldn't limit these to Christmas. The cookies were a little dense - with no leavening in the recipe, that could be an easy fix by adding a teaspoon of baking powder. Either that or tweak it for a chewier cookie! :)

Sunset magazine - full recipe.

Since I planned to roll mine in sugar (no reason except that I like the look of it), I reduced the sugar in the dough to 1/2 cup.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Danish Salted-Butter Cookies

If you're going to decorate and cover them with icing and sprinkles, save yourself the trouble and just go for regular sugar cookies. But if the cookies are to be the main focus, these are worth the extra effort!

Thanks to Bon Appetit for the recipe.

I did find that mine -- even though I felt I was rolling them a little thin -- took longer than the 10-15 minutes to cook to really delicious, golden brown, light and crispy, buttery cookies...about 20.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Quinoa Bark

My World Lit students are currently in our African literature unit reading Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart. At one point, the tribe rejoices as locusts 'invade' -- ready to be roasted for a tasty, crunchy treat. I often provide ethnic dishes for the students to try, and they jokingly asked in class about the possibility, including comments of "I'd maybe try them...if they were chocolate covered!" 

Well, culinary grade locusts are hard to come by here (not that I've ever given it any serious effort!!) but when I saw chocolate quinoa bark in this month's Cooking Light, I thought it would be fun to see if my students would eat a roasted, crunchy, chocolate covered snack...before I told them exactly what it was. :)

1/2 C uncooked quinoa
1/3 C turbinado sugar
7 oz dark chocolate
1/4 tsp sea salt

Photo and complete recipe from Cooking Light this month.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sweet Potato & Sausage Strata

1) My culinary students will be making stratas in class this week -- choosing their meat & veggie add-ins.  2) I had leftover wheat rolls from Thanksgiving dinner; and extra sweet potato. 3) This month's Cooking Light magazine (December 2015) had a recipe for Sweet Potato & Sausage Strata.  All that combined to inspire my own strata this morning...largely based on the Cooking Light add-ins -- I added some caramelized onions as well.

I don't do the Black Friday shopping frenzy. My tradition on Black Friday is to decorate for Christmas. So...my tree and twinkle light garlands are up around the house, potted paper whites (planted over a week ago) are beginning to push up green shoots promising fragrant white blossoms soon, pine and cinnamon scented candles are burning, and cozy Christmas pillows and throws are invitingly tucked on the couch and my Christmas books are calling. Christmas music (and the sound of the furnace blowing) are all calling me to enjoy this tasty breakfast on this Sunday morning.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Sour Cream Chocolate Cake

Light and moist. The recipe is plenty for three full layers; 9" rounds or 8" squares... Do you have three pans? Or 48 cupcakes! (lower photo...decorated for Halloween treats for my classes) I use dark cocoa powder (because I like it!), but that's not necessary of course. Both this cake and the frosting use sour cream; but the cake is also delicious with vanilla, cream cheese, or peanut butter frosting...a layer of raspberry jam between the layers...
Vanilla frosting with a splash of orange (color and flavor) may be what I use this week, since it's Halloween soon.

Ingredients (cake)
1 C (dark) cocoa powder
1 C HOT water
1 C butter, softened
2½ C sugar
4 eggs
2 t vanilla
3 C cake flour*
2 t baking soda
½ t baking powder
½ t salt
1 C sour cream

* substitution: 7/8 C all purpose flour + 2 T corn starch = 1 C cake flour

Directions (cake)
Pre-heat oven to 350˚.

Generously grease and flour 3 9-inch baking pans (or 8-inch squares). Note: I use parchment paper; this cake is light and tender...and can break and crumble easily coming out of pans.

Dissolve cocoa in hot water; set aside to cool.

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Stir in sour cream.

Slowly add dry ingredients to creamed mixture; beating on low speed. Stir in cocoa mixture until well combined.

Divide evenly between three pans; bake 30-35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pans; cool completely on wire racks.

Ingredients (frosting)
12 oz chocolate chips
½ C butter, cubed
1 C sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
4½ - 5 C powdered sugar

Directions (frosting)
Melt chocolate chips and butter in microwave; stir until smooth. Cool 5 minutes. Transfer to large bowl; stir in sour cream and vanilla. Add powdered sugar 1 C at a time until light and fluffy. Spread between layers and over top and sides of cake. Store in refrigerator.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

Perfect for fall!

2 C all purpose flour
½ C sugar
½ C brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
1 egg
¼ C milk
½ C vegetable oil
1 C pumpkin purée
½ C dried cranberries, reconstituted

Pre-heat oven to 375°.

Grease bottoms of 12 medium muffin cups (use shortening or coat with non-stick cooking spray).

Gently mix or sift dry ingredients in a medium bowl until well combined. In a separate bowl, beat egg. Add milk, oil and pumpkin to egg, and stir to mix.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour pumpkin mixture into well; mix just until flour is moistened (batter will be lumpy). Gently fold in cranberries.

Fill muffin cups about ¾ full. Bake 25 minutes.  Immediately remove from pan, cool on wire racks.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Spaghetti Squash

LOTS of things you can do with spaghetti squash...using it like "spaghetti" is just ONE! And spaghetti OR spaghetti can be topped with LOTS of things besides just marinara sauce. So this really isn't the most inspirational post. But since my cousin Mikayla commented on spaghetti squash when I was visiting this last weekend -- and we didn't really get the chance to follow-up at the time, I thought this might be worth posting.


Tip: When I put my squash on a baking sheet, I line the sheet with foil and give it a light coat of non-stick cooking spray. Easy clean-up! :)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ginger Crème Brulée

My custards took longer to cook than 1 hour. It will depend on how wide or deep your ramekin style is. Cook them until the centers barely move.

1/3 C sugar
4 egg yolks
2 C milk
2 T chopped crystallized ginger
½ tsp vanilla
¼ tsp salt
6 T sugar

Preheat oven to 325˚.

Place 6 4-ounce ramekins in a 9x13 baking dish.

Combine 1/3 C sugar and egg yolks, stirring well with whisk.

In a saucepan, combine milk and ginger. Heat over medium heat to 180˚ (just beginning to simmer; do not boil), stirring occasionally. Strain mixture through a sieve, discarding solids. Add vanilla and salt. Gradually add milk mixture to egg mixture, whisking constantly.

Divide mixture between 6 ramekins. Add hot water to baking dish to a depth of 1 inch, taking care not to drip or spill into custard filled ramekins.

Bake 1 hour or until center barely moves when ramekin is jiggled. Remove ramekins from pan, cool completely on wire rack. Cover; chill at least 4 hours.

Sift one tablespoon sugar to evenly cover cover each custard top. Using a kitchen torch about 2 inches from custard surface, "brulée" by moving torch back and forth until sugar is melted and caramelized (approx. 1 minute). Serve immediately, or within 1 hour.

If you don't have a kitchen torch...
Put 6 tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon water in saucepan; cook, without stirring, over medium heat until sugar is golden (5-8 minutes). Immediately pour over cold custards, gently spreading if necessary to form a thin layer.

Pumpkin Roulade with Ginger Buttercream

Though it's been on the website at least since last fall, I saw this one in the latest Food Network Magazine. It just seemed...like a bite of fall. If I made it again, I think I'd reduce the filling a little...or reduce it and fold in a little whipped cream. It was delicious, but very rich, and generous on the filling.

For the cake...
¾ C flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp salt
3 eggs, @ room temp.
1 C sugar
¾ C canned pumpkin
¼ C powdered sugar
          plus extra for dusting

For the filling...
12 oz mascarpone cheese
1¼ C powdered sugar
2 T heavy cream
¼ C minced crystallized ginger (dry, not in syrup)


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

Betty Crocker's maple bacon frosting -- a seasonal item, on sale today -- inspired my fall baking today. Sorry to say (though not exactly surprising), the store-bought canned frosting with its tiny, totally fake, stale-chewy imitation bacon sprinkles was VERY unimpressive. Makes me want to rebake these pumpkin cupcakes and make my own frosting and real crushed bacon bits.*

1 C butter, softened
1½ C brown sugar
3 eggs
2 C pumpkin purée
1 tsp vanilla
2¼ C flour 
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp ginger
2 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 375˚. Line 24 muffin tins with paper liners.

Stir or sift together flour, soda, salt and spices; set aside.
Cream butter and brown sugar. Add eggs and beat until well combined. Stir in pumpkin purée and vanilla. Gradually add dry ingredients. Scoop batter into cupcake liners. Bake 18-20 minutes.

Round or square cake pans (line with parchment paper and/or lightly coat with non-stick cooking spray) would probably require 25-30 minutes. Test them with a toothpick.

* Nov 29, 2015 addition: So...I did bake the pumpkin spice cupcakes again, mini-cupcakes this time. No bacon; brown sugar buttercream frosting with a sprinkle of coarse vanilla sugar and a dusting of cinnamon.  ...much better!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Mango-Tomato Salsa

This is an easy recipe to play around with to suit your individual taste. Add more of what you like, less of what you don't. However, all the ingredients -- sweet, salty, sour/acidic, etc. -- work together and against each other to highlight all the different flavors.

1 15 oz can petite diced tomatoes*
15 oz fresh peeled, diced mango
2 T minced onion
1+ tsp minced jalapeno or serrano chili pepper
1 T lime juice
½ tsp sugar
½ tsp rice vinegar
1 T chopped cilantro
1 T chopped fresh mint
salt and pepper to taste

* Yes, of course you can use fresh tomatoes and dice them yourself! :)

Combine mango, tomato, onion and chili in a bowl. Stir in lime juice, sugar, rice vinegar, cilantro and mint. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with tortilla chips.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Tiger Bites

I had half a bag of pretzels and some marshmallows that were going to go stale if I didn't use them soon. So...Tiger Bites! -- a blending of a couple bar cookie recipes I found. If I wasn't trying to use up the marshmallows I had, I might use mini-marshmallows instead. Although the browned tops of the larger ones give the even, golden "tiger" color under the chocolate drizzled stripes.

Cookie Bar Ingredients
1½ C broken pretzel pieces
1¼ C flour
1½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt (optional; pretzels are pretty salty already)
½ C butter
1½ C brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
non-stick cooking spray

Topping Ingredients
8 large marshmallows, halved
¼ C chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate)
2 T (about) cream - or milk

Preheat oven to 350˚. Line a 9" square baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang (to lift baked cookie bars out of the pan); coat lightly with non-stick cooking spray.

Pulse 1 C of pretzel pieces in food processor until finely ground (or smash in a plastic bag using a rolling pin). Combine with flour, baking powder and salt (if desired).

Melt butter with brown sugar over medium heat. Do not boil. Cool slightly; stir in eggs and vanilla. Combine with pretzel flour mixture until well blended. Pour and spread batter in baking pan. Lightly press remaining pretzel pieces over surface of batter.

Bake 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely, then lift out of baking pan, onto a sheet pan (spread foil edges out).

Preheat broiler. Gently press marshmallow halves (cut-side down) in rows (4x4) on top of cookie bars. Place under broiler -- moving and rotating as needed to brown all marshmallows evenly.

Place chocolate chips and 1-2 T cream in small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in SHORT intervals, stirring frequently, to melt chocolate. Drizzle in 'stripes' over tops of cookie bars. Chill or let harden at room temperature to set chocolate before serving. Cut into 16 bars.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Peach (& Brown Sugar) Cake

I found some peach puree in my freezer; I used my Chocolate Beet Cake recipe as a guide...  This worked well: Cake is light, fluffy, and tender. Very moist. Peach flavor is very mild; might be more evident using white sugar. Then again...maybe not; you really don't taste any beet in the chocolate cake. Still, it's something to try next time. :)

1 C butter, softened
1½ C brown sugar
3 eggs
2 C peach purée
1 tsp vanilla
2¼ C flour
2 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 375˚.

Stir or sift together flour, soda and salt; set aside. Cream butter and brown sugar. Add eggs and beat until well combined. Stir in peach purée and vanilla. Gradually add dry ingredients. Scoop batter into baking pans -- coated with non-stick cooking spray -- or cupcake tins lined with baking papers.

Mini-cupcakes baked in 16-18 minutes, full size cupcakes in 18-20. Round or square cake pans would probably require 25-30 minutes. Test them with a toothpick.

For the icing, I used my Vanilla Buttercream Icing recipe, but... 
Ginger and peach are such a great combo, and I had some fresh ginger root that was starting to dry a bit. Before bringing the sugar and water to 248˚, I sliced the ginger into the sugar-water mixture and brought it just to a boil; then let it sit for 1/2 an hour to steep the ginger and flavor the sugar-water. Scoop or strain out the ginger, and finish the recipe without further changes. Ground ginger could be added along with the butter as an alternative.

Individual Raspberry Peach Pies/Tarts

I didn't really have a recipe for this, just a huge, fresh peach and some leftover raspberry purée... Here's my best recollection of ingredient amounts:

pie crust
1 large peach, peeled, pitted and sliced
2/3 C raspberry purée
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1-2 T honey
¼ tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 425˚.

Line 3 4-inch tart pans with pie crust dough; dock with a fork. 

In a small bowl, cream together softened cream cheese, honey and black pepper. Divide evenly into pie crusts, spreading to cover bottom. Top with a single layer of peach slices; drizzle with raspberry purée. Brush edges of crust with beaten egg.

Bake 25-30 minutes, until centers are slightly bubbly and crust edges are golden brown.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Chocolate Angel Food Cake

 I always love chocolate, and hot summer weather makes me want a light, fresh dessert...and local fresh fruits are always tempting. This is a light(er) dessert...unfortunately, I found it pretty 'light' on flavor too. I want stronger chocolate flavor and not quite as sweet. Still, a light option and tastey with fresh berries and a little whipped cream. I had some leftover cream cheese icing (from cinnamon rolls last week) that I drizzled over it this time around.

Recipe, courtesy of Food Network Magazine.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Raspberry Thyme Crostini

Simple, delicious...

baguette, sliced
fresh raspberries*
fresh thyme

* I happened to have both white and red raspberries from our local farmers market

Toast baguette slices. Spread with chevre, top with raspberries and fresh thyme leaves. Drizzle with honey. Enjoy!

Photo - taken on my deck last night - courtesy of my friend Cheryl Crooks (Cheryl Crooks Photography) who snapped the shot during our French class. :)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

(White) Raspberry Jelly

I bought a box of white raspberries at the local Farmer's Market...enjoyed a few handfuls fresh and made a small batch of jelly with the rest. Recipe works with white or red raspberries. I just had one box from the Farmer's Market, but easy to double (or triple) the recipe amounts. :)

1½ C (white) raspberries
½ C sugar
lemon juice to taste

Combine berries and sugar; refrigerate 24 hours, stirring occasionally. Macerating the fruit draws the liquid out. Just before cooking, add lemon - a little at a time, taste test as you go until the fruit flavor really 'jumps forward.'

Bring it all to a boil, dissolving all the sugar if it isn't already. At first, there's lots of liquid and it's lighter in color. If foam develops, remove from heat briefly to skim off foam. As it continues to cook, the volume will reduce, the color will darken. The bubbles start to get smaller, shinier and glossier and they form small 'wells' of bubbles. The boiling begins to sound more like a rustling.

If you want a seedless jam (jelly), now is the time to pass the jam through a strainer; then complete the cooking process.

As it nears 'done-ness' it's thick enough that as you draw a spatula across the pan it will clearly leave a track before syrupy-thick jam covers the bottom of the pot again. (see pics & jam making tips) The berries are broken down by this point and the jam is more cohesive, rather than chunks of berries in liquid.

The best test for done-ness' is to remove it from the heat, scoop out a small spoonful and put it in the freezer a few minutes -- just to bring it more quickly to room temperature -- to test the texture for spreadable consistency.

Pour or spoon jam in to sterile jars; seal.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Watermelon Rind Pickles

I grew up attending a small, conservative, evangelical, community church where we regularly had old fashioned potluck suppers in the 'fellowship hall' (making me something of a connoisseur of noodle casseroles by the time I was ten). I don't remember who, if I never knew, but someone there would often bring watermelon rind pickles.

4 C watermelon rind, pink flesh and dark green outer skim trimmed off
8 C water
2 T, and 2 tsp salt, divided
2 C sugar
1¼ C apple cider vinegar
8 cloves
8 whole black peppercorns
2 cinnamon sticks
1 bay leaf
¼ tsp mustard seed
¼ tsp dill
¼ tsp allspice
¼ tsp ginger

Place rinds, water and 2 T salt in large saucepan; boil for 5 minutes. Strain and place rinds in a clean bowl.

Combine remaining 2 tsp salt and all other ingredients in saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Pour over rinds; cover with plate or plastic wrap to keep rinds submerged. Chill 8 hours or overnight.

I taste tested at this point. I love pickled things, even fairly strong pickle flavor and these tasted great even after ONE brining. Unless you like it really strong, once may be plenty. But the recipe says to...

Return brine to saucepan; bring to a boil. Pour again over rinds; chill 8 hours or overnight.

Watermelon Gelato

This makes a very mild flavored, refreshing gelato. Not as creamy as I'd like, but the icy-ness is not surprising with the high water content of watermelon...I'm afraid adding more cream would weaken the watermelon flavor too much. (maybe a little more limoncello?) I may play with the recipe a little next time around.

2 C pureed watermelon
1 C heavy cream
¾ C sugar
1 T lemon juice
1 T limoncello
Optional: ½ tsp mint extract

Remove rind from watermelon flesh; remove seeds as desired. Purée; strain to remove any remaining seeds and excess pulp.

Add sugar, cream, lemon, and limoncello...and mint if desired. (Because of the high water content in watermelon, the alcohol -- which doesn't freeze -- keeps the gelato from getting too icy, keeping it a creamier consistency. Any alcohol will work; many recipes call for vodka.) Stir until sugar is completely dissolved. If necessary, heat mixture just enough to dissolve all the sugar.

Chill in refrigerator to about 40˚. Process in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Ginger 'Beer' (non-alcoholic)

I love ginger. Ginger ale is good, but I've found Cock & Bull ginger beer served at a few local restaurants and I think it's far better. It isn't really beer - it's non-alcoholic for one thing - but has much more intense ginger flavor than any ginger ale soda pop. I found this recipe in a magazine (maybe Cooking Light?) with hopes of finding something roughly equivalent to the Cock & Bull drink I like. I have found that available at a couple local grocery/beverage retailers, but not everywhere. This recipe is not quite the same, but very good - especially if I mix it extra strong!

4 oz ginger, peeled and chopped
2 C water
1 C raw sugar
generous pinch salt

lemon juice
soda water

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat; simmer 45 minutes. Cool. Strain ginger syrup through a fine sieve.

To serve: Combine 2 oz ginger syrup, 1 T fresh lemon juice, and 8 oz chilled soda water.

Pictured: mixed to serve on left, pure ginger syrup on right.

Yellow (or Butternut!) Squash and Feta Grilled Crostini

I have folders full of recipes I want to try, saved over months. They're in a drawer in my kitchen, and I DO get them out and make them. Eventually. The inspiration for this one, however, came from this next month's (July 2015) Better Homes and Gardens. I say "inspiration" because I used butternut squash instead of yellow summer squash (it just needed longer to cook) and I didn't have arugula, so just used my own fresh greens. I was a little too heavy handed with the feta for my taste; I like feta, but it's fairly salty and with the cream cheese spread (with garlic and oregano) under the roasted veggies in this recipe, there's already plenty of cheese. But other than that this was a great, light dinner, or would make a wonderful appetizer as well. I get the magazine, but you can find it here:  BH&G Yellow Squash & Feta Grilled Toast

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Savory Danishes

Great for brunch!

12 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
¼ C + 2 T ranch dressing
½ C shredded cheddar
1 egg
2 sheets (1 17.3 oz pkg) puff pastry, thawed but still chilled
½ bell pepper, julienned
14 oz (about) Italian dry salami, thin sliced rounds
½ C shredded Parmesan (or Italian blend) cheeses
1-2 T dill
1 tsp black pepper

Preheat oven to 375˚. In small bowl, whisk egg with 2 tsp water; set aside.

On lightly floured surface, roll each sheet of puff pastry to 12" square. Cut into 9 squares (approx 4" each), and place on parchment paper lined baking sheets.

Place salami slices, evenly divided, in a diagonal (corner to corner) across each puff pastry square.

Blend cream cheese and ranch dressing until smooth; stir in shredded cheddar until evenly distributed. Divide evenly among puff pastry squares, spreading gently over salami.

Top cream cheese mixture with julienned bell pepper strips.

Pull a corner of each puff pastry square over the filing; brush top of dough with egg wash. Fold opposite corner over egg washed pastry, pressing gently to seal. Repeat with all 18 squares. Brush dough all over with egg wash. 

Combine shredded Parmesan, dill and black pepper. Sprinkle over tops of danishes.

Bake danishes until golden brown and crisp (approx. 30 minutes). Remove from baking sheet promptly to avoid sticking. Best served warm.

Blackberry Danishes

12 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
6 T honey
3 T cornstarch
½ C sugar
1 egg
2 sheets (1 17.3 oz pkg) puff pastry, thawed but still chilled
3½ C blackberries
Optional: 2 T turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 375˚. In small bowl, whisk egg with 2 tsp water; set aside.

On lightly floured surface, roll each sheet of puff pastry to 12" square. Cut into 9 squares (approx 4" each), and place on parchment paper lined baking sheet.

Blend cream cheese and honey until smooth. Divide evenly among puff pastry squares, spreading gently in a diagonal (corner to corner) across each square.

Combine cornstarch and sugar; gently stir in berries until sugar and cornstarch thickly coat berries. Divide berries evenly, spooning them over the cream cheese mixture on each puff pastry square.

Pull a corner of each puff pastry square over the filing; brush top of dough with egg wash. Fold opposite corner over egg washed pastry, pressing gently to seal. Repeat with all 18 squares. Brush dough all over with egg wash. Sprinkle lightly with turbinado sugar, if desired.

Bake danishes until golden brown and crisp (approx. 30 minutes). Remove from baking sheet promptly to avoid sticking. Serve warm or cold.

Mustard Vinaigrette

½ C white wine vinegar*
2 T dijon mustard
1 tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1½ C olive oil

* I've seen plenty of recipes that use red wine vinegar as well; it will alter the color a bit, of course, but if it's all you've got (or you prefer its flavor) it'll work fine.

Blend together vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper until smooth. Drizzle in olive oil, whisking constantly for a smooth, well blended dressing.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Caramel Sauce

1 C heavy cream
2 T corn syrup
2 T butter
¼ tsp salt
1 C sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out*

In saucepan, combine cream, corn syrup, butter and salt. Bring to simmer, whisking; remove from heat.

Spread sugar evenly in a large skillet. cook over medium heat, undisturbed, until sugar melts and starts to caramelize (about 5 minutes). Continue cooking, swirling the pan but not stirring, until sugar becomes dark amber (10-15 minutes).

Remove from heat. Add warm cream mixture. Return to medium heat and bring to a simmer; continue whisking until smooth (another 8+ minutes). Stir in vanilla seeds. Let cool slightly before serving.

* or 2 tsp vanilla extract

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Cranberry Orange Cheesecake Cookies

½ C butter
½ C shortening
¾ C brown sugar
¾ C sugar
8 oz cream cheese
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 T frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
2¾ C flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp salt
1½ C white chocolate chips
2/3 C dried cranberries
½ C orange juice


Preheat oven to 375°. Put dried cranberries to soak in a small bowl with orange juice; set aside.

Cream butter, shortening and sugars. Mix in cream cheese until blended. Add eggs, vanilla and orange juice concentrate and blend until smooth.

In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt. Add to creamed mixture all at once; mix until just combined. Drain cranberries. Add cranberries and white chocolate chips, blending until evenly distributed.

Drop dough by heaping teaspoons onto ungreased baking sheet, 2” apart. Bake 10-12 minutes. Cool 1-2 minutes on baking sheet, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Australian Jack (Oatmeal Bars)

Traditional Australian oatmeal 'cake'/cookie bar...

2 tsp water
1½ cups oatmeal
1 tsp ground ginger
½ C unsalted butter
1/3 C dark brown sugar
¼ tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 300˚.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Dissolve baking soda in water, combine thoroughly with creamed butter & sugar.

Stir in oatmeal and ginger. Mixture should be fairly firm; if necessary add a little additional oatmeal. Knead briefly on lightly floured surface; press in a greased 9x9 baking pan or similar (dough should be about ½" thick).

Bake 35 minutes or until browned on top. Cut into wedges while still hot.

Australian Damper

Traditional bread made by Australian drovers in the outback - traditionally cooked in the coals of a campfire. (The photo isn't mine...we baked ours in round cake pans in the oven.  ...though we did serve it with vegemite!)

2½ C flour
5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp butter
1 tsp sugar
1 C freshly mixed powdered milk - or use water
     (I used fresh milk, not powdered.)

Combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Cut in butter. Stir in milk to form a dough; knead briefly. Shape into flattened ball.

To cook in campfire coals, wrap in a double layer of well greased foil and place in coals of a campfire - OR - place in a cast iron skillet and 'nestle' in the the coals of a campfire.

To cook in the oven...  Preheat to 350˚; place dough in a greased round cake pan and bake for 30 minutes.

Eat in thick slices while warm, with butter, jam or vegemite. :)

Monday, May 25, 2015

Fluffy Pancakes

It felt like a pancakes morning, and I remembered that just last month there were four different basic pancake recipes in Food Network magazine (fluffy, diner-style, thin and lacy, and multigrain). I made the "fluffy" pancake version. Flavor was nothing out of the ordinary (maybe I'd try buttermilk next time), but they were very thick, light and fluffy, a wonderfully tender texture.

1½ C flour
3 T confectioner's sugar
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp kosher salt
1¼ C milk
1 egg yolk
3 egg whites
4 T unsalted butter, melted & cooled
½ tsp vanilla extract 

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together milk, egg yolk, melted butter and vanilla. In another bowl, beat egg whites into stiff peaks.

Stir milk mixture into flour mixture until just combined (a few lumps are okay). Stir in a third of the egg whites; then gently fold in the rest until just combined - do not overmix.

Pour batter onto non-stick griddle lightly coated with butter. Cook until bubble form on top and the bottom i slightly browned (about 3 minutes). Flip and continue cooking until golden on the other side (about 1 minute more).

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Chicken Satay

 For another version... Chicken Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce.

Serves 8-10

3 C coconut milk, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbls + 2 tsp curry powder, divided
½ C + 1 T brown sugar, divided
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1½ lb boneless, skinless chicken breast tenders (breasts, cut into strips)
1 C peanut butter
1½ C chicken stock
¼ C lemon (or lime) juice
2 tsp soy sauce
20 (6 inch) wooden skewers

In a bowl, combine 1 C coconut milk, garlic, 2 tsp curry powder, brown sugar, salt and pepper, stir until sugar is dissolved. Toss chicken tenders/strips in mixture; cover, and marinate for 2 hours (refrigerated).

In saucepan, bring 2 C coconut milk, 2 T curry powder, peanut butter, chicken stock, and ½ C brown sugar to a simmer over medium-high heat. Simmer 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until smooth and thickened. Remove from heat; stir in lemon juice, and soy sauce. (Add extra soy to taste if needed.)

Preheat grill. Presoak skewers in water. Thread chicken onto skewers. Grill 4-5 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Serve with warm peanut sauce.

Date & Raisin Chutney

(Khajoor & Kishmish Chutney)

2 C pitted dates
½ C raisins (dark or golden)
¼ C tamarind pulp
½ C brown sugar
½ inch fresh ginger, minced
1 tsp salt – adjust to taste
2 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp red chili powder – adjust to taste
2 black cardamom pods
1½ C (about) water

Soak raisins in water for about ½ hour. Chop dates into ½” pieces. Remove shell from cardamom pods; crush seeds.

In saucepan, combine water, tamarind, sugar, salt, black pepper, red chili powder, cumin and cardamom. Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer for about 2 minutes.

Add dates, raisins, and ginger. Return to boil, then remove from heat. Let sit at least 1 hour before serving. Serve at room temperature.

Chutney can be refrigerated for up to a month.

I used this as a marinade and condiment over a pork loin I roasted recently. Delicious!

Indian Vegetable Curry

Serves 4-6

1½ lb choice of vegetables: cauliflower, carrot, okra, spinach, babycorn
1 C canned chickpeas, rinsed & drained
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 green chili, deseeded and minced
1-2 inches ginger, peeled and minced
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt
½ tsp mustard seed
½ tsp ground coriander
1 T curry paste
1 T tamarind purée and/or 1 T tomato paste
½ C coconut milk
oil for sautéing

Wash produce; trim and peel as needed. Medium dice all vegetables (except onions). In small bowl, combine curry paste, tomato purée and coconut milk; set aside.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat; sauté onion for 1-2 minutes; add garlic and chili, sauté another 2-3 minutes, stirring often. Add spices and ginger, stirring until well combined and fragrant.

Add diced vegetables, firmest first; cook, stirring often, until fork tender. Add chickpeas, cook until thoroughly warmed. Add coconut mixture, stirring gently to combine all ingredients. Cook until slightly thickened.

Serve over rice or with naan.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Roasted Root Vegetable and Farro Salad

1½ cups farro
1 bay leaf
2 lbs assorted root vegetables: carrots, rutabagas, yams, turnips, parsnips, butternut squash, celery root, etc.
1 lg red oinion; peeled and diced
½ C olive oil
10 sprigs fresh thyme
sea salt
3 oranges, peeled and medium diced*
2-3 T sherry vinegar*

Cook farro in 2 qts well salted water until tender (45 min - 1 hr); drain.

Preheat oven to 425˚. Peel root vegetables; medium dice (½"). Spread in single layer on baking sheet with onion, 2 T oil, and thyme. Roast until tender and slightly browned (20-30 min). Remove from oven. Toss cooked farrow with remaining oil and sherry vinegar. Combine with roasted vegetables and orange pieces. 

Salad can be served warm, cold or room temperature.

* When I first tasted this salad at an evening cooking class, I wasn't wild about the orange pieces. (Maybe they'd be okay if they were orange supremes? or the canned mandarin oranges) but the orange flavor was good. I didn't have either, but did have some orange juice. I also didn't have sherry vinegar; I do have a variety of flavored vinegars...worked/tasted fine. :)