Sunday, February 28, 2010

It's a Party for Dave at My Year On the Grill!!


WOO HOO!! It's a party!!  A tropical island party!!  If you haven't heard by now, my blogging friend Dave at My Year on the Grill, and his beautiful (sainted) wife Jackie have moved from snowy, blowy Kansas to the sunny, breezy Virgin Islands!!  It's tough duty, but I know he is up to the challenge. After all, he's only been cooking for a short while, but he's fearless and creative and humorous ~ he is the Grill Master and the Capped and Caped Master Baker.  Just one look at his blog and you'll be drooling and dreaming of grilling and baking. Dave's also started two new blogs that are listed in his sidebar which chronicle his experiences there.  And, if that's not enough, he also participates as a contributor to another delicious blog, Welcome to Our Krazy Kitchen.  Whew!  I'm telling you here and now, the chopped vegetables fly, the flour dust doesn't settle, and the rubs and meats sizzle when he's around!

That's all well and (so very!) good.  That's Kansas-style cooking. Heck, that's even New England cooking! But what happens when you move to the Virgin Islands...well, now...that's a whole 'nother story now isn't it?  A whole new challenge.  Dave has begun posting from his new locale, but...

His blogging friend, Min R at  Our Krazy Kitchen and The Bad Girl's Kitchen, asked Dave's friends to get together, throw him a party, and share some island-type recipes with him.  Naturally, if it's a party, I want to be there!
So, when I think island...I think lots and lots of fresh eating sunshine.  Of course you can't tell that from this picture (snow storms, Dave,  a week of snow storms and over 300,000 people in my home state without power  going on several days now.  I know you're missing it.)

This simple salad is delicious.  I loved it.  Course do I have to even say that Ole Sweetie-Pi won't go near it.  Nope.  He won't even try.  He knows he doesn't like anything but iceberg lettuce and avocado is simply out of the question.  I think he'd rather be dragged behind a team of wild horses.  But never mind him right now.  I just want to reiterate that this salad is light, delicious and healthy and full of sunshine. And with the snow plows still going by, a bit of the tropics!

Avocado, Kiwi, Orange Salad

4 large oranges
4 kiwi
2 large avocados

Lime juice **
Orange juice **
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup salad oil

 Peel the oranges and separate into sections.  Use a sharp knife to remove the membrane and the pith, capturing any juices in a bowl. **

Next, cut the avocado lengthwise around the pit.  With your hands, twist the avocado halves in opposite directions to separate them.  Tap the tip of the knife into the pit so that the knife tip catches the pit and carefully twist the knife to loosen and remove the pit.  Peel and then slice the avocado halves.

Peel and slice the kiwi fruit.

Arrange the fruits on a bed of lettuce on a salad plate.

For the dressing, measure the reserved orange juice and add enough lime juice to make 1/2 cup.  Add the salt, honey and oil.  Whisk thoroughly until well combined.  Lightly cover the salad with the dressing, serving any remainder on the side.

**Okay, now the truth...  No way were my oranges going to peel as nicely or as beautifully as I hoped, and when it came to the orange juice, well there just wasn't any.  I cut open open and freshly squeezed orange juice into a measuring cup, had about 1/4 cup, and added 1/4 cup of lime juice (the stuff from the green bottle, gasp, because that's what I had on hand and  I forgot to buy fresh limes at the grocery store.  Six thousand of my closest friends and neighbors were there and I just wanted to leave.  Ok, that's an exaggeration, maybe it was only five thousand...) I could drink this dressing through a straw I liked it so much!

Dave, Jackie, I hope you enjoy your stay in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

I wish I were there.

Ooooh,  yoooo hooooo, cabana boy....

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Fruity Nutty Buttery Biscuits


Ingrid, my beautiful friend of  3B's...Baseball, Baking & Books,  recently posted an irresistible breakfast treat she makes for her adorable family.  She says she found this recipe on Monica's blog, Lick the Bowl Clean.  Wow!  Have you ever visited either blog?  Both have beautiful photography and delicious food.  Just a word of caution, don't to to either blog if you're even the teeniest bit  hungry because you'll be ravenous when you leave.  I know this from personal experience; proceed at your own risk.  You have been warned, grins.

The minute I saw these caramel-y , nutty, fruit topped breakfast treats I had to make them the very next morning.  And if that's not enough to convince you, even the bottoms of the biscuits are brushed in melted butter and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.  Oh my!  I think I even dreamed about them.  And the good news?  You can use any kind or fruit or that catches your imagination and pleases your palate.  There is no right or wrong combination. 

I had bananas and thought I'd make the same as Ingrid's, but I've had a real yen for peaches lately, so peach it was.  I just pulled out a bag of frozen  sliced peaches, picked of any ice chips, roughly chopped perhaps three-fourths of the bag.  I didn't have canned refrigerator biscuits (what a time saver that would be, and equally as good), so whipped up my favorite biscuit recipe, Never Fail Biscuits

Ingrid, these were so good.  I won't embarrass myself and tell you how many  golden caramel, peach, and nut crowed, cinnamon and sugar dusted, buttery bottomed  biscuits I enjoyed with my coffee.  And Ole Sweetie-Pi.  Well, let's just say he thoroughly enjoyed his (though I omitted the nuts for his as he has a nut sensitivity.)  

Let me give you Monica's recipe, pretty much as she wrote it, with my notes at the following.

 Fruity, Nutty Buttery Biscuits

1 tube (of 8) refrigerated biscuits (or your own biscuit recipe) **
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, cut into 8 equal pats
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1-2 bananas cut into 1/4-inch slices (or fruit of choice)
4 teaspoons packed brown sugar ***
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter, melted****
cinnamon sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray  with a nonstick cooking spray or generously grease your muffin tins, set aside until you are ready to begin layering your ingredients.

Chop the nuts, set aside; dice the butter, set aside; slice (or dice) the fruit you are using, set aside. Open the can of refrigerated biscuits , or have your from-scratch biscuits already rolled and cut out, waiting to be used.

To begin, place 1/2 tablespoon or two of the 8 butter pats into each muffin cup. Sprinkle chopped pecans over the butter, then a couple of tablespoons of diced peaches over the pecans. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar and a pinch of cinnamon. Top with biscuit and press into muffin tin. Brush each biscuit with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Bake for 18 minutes or until golden and puffed. Allow to cool for a couple minutes before gently scooping them out onto a plate.

My notes:

**  My biscuit recipe makes more than 8 biscuits, closer to a dozen actually because I rolled them thinner than usual; I didn't want them exploding over the tops of the muffin tins.  Because the recipe is so simple, I just eyeballed the amounts for the additional biscuits. It worked out well; recipe is forgiving.

***I did not have brown sugar (what's up with that, and I'm sure I bought some the last time I went shopping!!)  Anyway, to make do, thoroughly combine 1 tablespoon of molasses with 1/2 cup of white sugar. To make dark brown sugar, double the amount of molasses.  Voila!  That's all there is to it. 

****My biscuits were a tad salty to me; next time I will use unsalted butter.

Ingrid, thanks again for finding and sharing such a delightful breakfast treat.  This is a recipe I'll turn to time and time again.  Already, I'm imagining the other fruits and nut combinations I can use....

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Cream of Lentil Soup

Rachel of Rachel vs. "The Kitchen"  recently celebrated her one year blogoversary and held a terrific giveaway. She gave away a fabulous Taste of Home Prize Winning Recipes magazine, which has a collection of 200 delicious, family tested and family approved  recipes.  And I won!   If you have visited with Rachel yet, I hope that you do.  She's down to earth, an absolute delight, and her recipes always leave me saying, "I have to make this!"

Let me assure you, the minute I received this magazine, I sat down and read it from cover to cover;  I think I've read it every single night since it arrived in my mailbox.  There are so many tempting recipes in there that I didn't know which to choose first; I had a dozen bookmarked. Then I remembered my New Year's food resolution:  to try new-to-me foods, to break out of my staid food habits, to try the "exotic."  What better way to celebrate a thoughtful gift.

Was I one of the last people on this planet to try lentils?    I don't know why it took me so long to try them, but I was reluctant.  And curry?  Well, I used to love curry then it fell out of favor with me, but slowly I've been reacquainting myself with its warm flavor and aroma.  Soooo....

When I saw this Cream of Lentil Soup, I knew I had to at least give it a try. Lots of fresh vegetables.  And cream.

Are all lentils created equally?  I do not know.  I had a package of red lentils; I had a package of brown lentils.  I went with the red because I liked the color.  I didn't know what to expect.  The recipe does not specify.

First of all, I was surprised to see that they cooked down, absorbing most of the cooking liquid, and became quite soft, as in a pea soup.  I think I was expecting something more like a bean or barley, where they'd hold their shape  They definitely have a bean-like or pea-like flavor, quite pleasant actually, which is a good thing since this soup is a a lentil soup after all. 

What made the soup for me, though, was the curry.  Wow!  I am definitely back in love with curry.  For me this soup has just the perfect amount, spicy, aromatic, warm but not overpowering.  I would definitely make this soup again, but it would have to be just for me.  Ole Sweetie-Pi tried a spoonful of it, cocked his head to one side, looked thoughtful, and then said, "I almost like this."  And then he went and made himself a sandwich.  Oh, well.

Let me give you the recipe as written and then I'll follow with my own changes.

Cream of Lentil Soup

6 cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups dried lentils, rinsed
1 bay leaf
1 whole clove **
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups coarsely chopped fresh spinach
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley

In a large saucepan, combine broth, lentils, bay leaf and clove.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until lentils are tender.

Meanwhile, in a Dutch-oven, saute onion and celery in butter until crisp-tender.  Add the carrots, salt, sugar, curry powder and pepper.  Saute two to three minutes longer or until vegetables are tender.  Add garlic; cook one minute longer. 

Drain lentils. ***  Discard bay leaf and clove.  Add to vegetable mixture.  Stir in the spinach, cream, lemon juice and parsley.  Cook over low heat until heated through and spinach is wilted. 

**I don't keep whole cloves in the spice rack, so I just added a pinch of ground cloves.

***I'm not sure why the lentils are drained. If it's to remove the bay leaf , I just fished about in the soup til I found the bay leaf and removed it.  I was not about to drain the lentils and then do what with the broth?  Toss it?  I don't think so!  I paid good money for that broth and it's staying in the soup.  Plus, the lentils absorbed most of the liquid anyway, and I don't think the soup would have had enough liquid with just the cream.  As it was, I probably could have used more broth, and the next time I make this soup, I'll keep that in mind. 

Rachel, thank you so much for hosting your giveaway and for drawing my name!  Happy blogoversary to you, my friend.  I look forward to savoring many more of your delicious posts.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

I think I read on an old Salada tea tag line (remember those?) that the only way to overcome temptation is to give in to it.  I pretty much adhere to that philopsophy, considering it's not immoral or illegal, grins.

My bloggy friend, Debbie, from Mocha Me, has some some of the most tempting recipes.  She shares my love of  baking, and I know when I go and visit with her that she's been cooking up something irresistible.  With her recent snowy weather she's been cooking up her own storm and among these was this delicious Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Ordinarily, I'm not big on banana cakes as they seem to lack the fullness and richness of the banana flavor that I seek, but the idea of a banana cake with cream cheese frosting enticed me, and with four very ripe bananas  begging for attention, I could not resist.

I am most certainly pleased that I gave in to temptation as this cake is delicious!  The cake is moist, the banana flavor shines through (you'll notice no extracts to compete with the bananas), and the cream cheese frosting is an excellent choice. Once Sweetie-Pi accepted that this is a banana cake and not banana bread, he liked it as much as I do.

Thanks, Debbie, this recipe is a keeper!

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

2/3 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, whites and yolks separated
2 cups mashed bananas (approximately 4 medium)
1 cup milk
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup butter, softened (if using salted butter, omit dash of salt listed at the end)
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
dash salt
Generously grease and flour a 9 x 13 inch baking pan and set aside.  Preheat oven to 350*F.
In a large bowl, cream shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add bananas and milk; mix until just combined. 
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to the creamed mixture; beat for 2 minutes.

In another bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold into batter. 
Pour into prepared baking pan. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes***or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack and then frost.

For the frosting:  In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add the confectioners' sugar, vanilla and salt; beat until smooth. Spread over cake. Store in the refrigerator.

***My baking times more closely matched Debbie's; my cake definitely was not done at the end of 35 minutes.  I had to cover with a sheet of tin foil and continue to bake for another 20 minutes or so.  The top of the cake stuck to the tin foil, but frosting repaired its torn appearance and no one was the wiser.  I think the added baking time may have made the cake a little tough, but it still tasted good!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Oatmeal Apple Pancakes

It's been a while since I've seen you at breakfast time so I made these pancakes.  I should probably be embarrassed to admit this, but I'm going to say it anyway.  You know those prepared packages of instant oatmeal cereals that come in the variety pack.  Well, I love those, and the apple one is my favorite.  The moment I saw this recipe I knew I was going to love it; and I do.

Ole Sweetie-Pi didn't care for these as much.   He thought these tasted okay, but too cookie-like in flavor and somehow the word limp was used to describe texture.  Sigh.

These golden oatmeal apple pancakes are hearty in texture.  The oatmeal gives it substance, the apple gives it texture.  There is just the right amount of sweetness  with the brown sugar and generous amount of cinnamon  (I enjoyed these plain) but with maple syrup, divine.

I found them to be a little tricky to cook.  The oatmeal causes kinks in the batter (for lack of a more technical cooking term) so that when they are flipped, they tend to break apart.  I found that making smaller, thinner pancakes and using the widest spatula I had worked much better and by the second batch I was able to have a pancake that wasn't a jumbled (but still delicious) heap of pancake. 

Oatmeal Apple Pancakes
(from About.Com: Gourmet Food)

2/3 cup quick cooking rolled oats
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large apple, peeled and grated
 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup pecans (optional)

In a large bowl, mix together the oats and buttermilk and allow to stand for 10 minutes to soften the oatmeal.

On a piece of waxed paper or in another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

Whisk together the egg yolks, brown sugar, and melted butter. Add this to the oats and buttermilk.

Stir in the grated apple.

Slowly add in the dry ingredients until just moistened. Stir in the pecans, if using.

Whip the egg whites until soft peaks are formed and then gently fold them into the pancake batter.

Heat up a large fry pan or griddle over medium high heat. Add 2 or 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil to the pan. Using a quarter-cup measuring cup, measure the pancake batter into the hot oil. Cook each side until browned (about 3 minutes).

Serve with warm maple syrup.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Chocolate Buttermilk Cupcakes

My bloggy friend, Kim, from The Ungourmet, is a cupcake and muffin maven.  Honestly, she's got it all  and is such an inspiration to me. Every time I see one of her posts, I think, "I have must do this!"  And then I chicken out.  I have a shameful past.

I can't tell you the last time I made cupcakes.  I love the idea, that single serving cakelet all to myself, with all the frosting and goodness of a slice of cake.  Except cupcakes are tactile ~ I can eat it with my hands, grins.  That is, unless you've had one of my earlier cupcakes.  Dry, dry, dry and disappointing overall; I understood why people wanted a glass of milk.  With my cupcakes, you needed  several glasses of milk.  That's the honest truth. So I gave up on cupcakes.  And then I tried this recipe from Food Network TV.  My mind is changed.  My cooking horizons have been opened.  I can make cupcakes that are actually, well, in a word, wonderful!

By all rights these were going to be ganache covered, creamed filled, chocolate cupcakes. I wanted the cake recipe but was going to swap out the cream filling from another; I didn't want to use all that corn syrup.   Someone (who shall remain nameless) left two swirls of the marshmallow fluff  I needed as an ingredient for the filling, leading me to believe I had a full jar.  Since I was making these for Mr. Nameless because he's the chocolate lover, and because he was the one who was giving me the big pleading blue eyes, and because the cupcakes were already made, I decided to just frost them and save the cream filled ones for another day. 


Moist, fluffy, and chocolaty delicious.  

Chocolate Buttermilk Cupcakes
(from the Foodnetwork TV)

1 1/4 cupcs cake flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder***
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup strong coffee, hot

Generously grease a 12-cup muffin-cupcake tin and set aside (or use paper liners). I found that I made 12 standard sized cupcakes and had enough  remaining batter  to make 3 super-sized cupcakes.  Preheat over to 350*F. 

Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt together three times.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar together at high speed for 15 seconds.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. Continue beating until light and fluffy, about 6 minutes more.

With the mixer on its lowest setting, beat in a third of the flour mixture.

Beat in the buttermilk and vanilla, then another third of the flour.

Beat in the coffee and then the remaining flour.

Fill the cups of the muffin tin two-thirds full and bake for 15 minutes, or until the centers spring back when lightly pressed and a cake tester comes out clean. Set the pan on a rack to cool.

Remove cupcakes from tin before frosting, and frost as desired.

***I was working with two recipes simultaneously, and they were quite similar in ingredients, forgot where I was supposed to be looking and inadvertently added 1/2 teaspoon baking powder instead of 1/4 teaspoon called for in the original recipe.  No way to take it out so I forged ahead.  Fortunately, it worked just fine.

This time I swapped heavy cream for the milk in the original recipe.  Add additional cream as necessary to make a desirable spreading consistency and don't be afraid to beat this well.  It makes for a luscious, creamy frosting and is a dream to pipe.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Hearty Tomato Soup

Ole Sweetie-Pi and I were out to dinner one night a couple of weeks ago, and the restaurant was offering a cookbook published by one of our local organizations, The Connecticut Valley Home Care/Hospice.  Now, I don't know about you, but I find it hard to resist  tried and true family recipes and an opportunity to support a local organization that does such fine work.  As soon as we arrived home, I immediately sat down down and read it from cover to cover, selecting those recipes that had the most appeal, as well as recipes from the names of those local excellent cooks whose names I recognized.

This recipe was submitted by Bea Carleton, a name I've known a very long time.  Bea was a friend and former workmate of my sainted grandmother, and a woman who was very well known for her excellent recipes.  I have other recipes from Bea via my grandmother's handwritten cards when they used to swap recipes at work.  True to Bea's reputation, this recipe is a keeper.  Both Sweetie-Pi and I loved this simple and hearty tomato soup that starts with the well-loved tomato soup in the familiar red and gold cans.

As good as this was the first day, it was even better reheated the second day.  It makes a good amount of soup, enough for 6 people, I think, perhaps more if you're serving sandwiches on the side.

Hearty Tomato Soup
(Bea Carleton in Recipes and Remembrances, Connecticut Valley Home Care/ Hospice)

1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons margarine or butter
2 3-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
2 10-3/4 ounce cans condensed tomato soup
1 1/4 cup milk
2 16-ounce cans whole tomatoes, undrained

Cook and stir onion in butter in a three-quart sauce pan until the onion is transparent, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove from heat.

Stir in cream cheese, paprika, basil and garlic powder.

Gradually stir in soup and milk.  Beat with hand beater (or immersion blender) until smooth.

Break up the tomatoes with a fork and stir into soup.

Heat over medium heat without boiling,  stirring frequently, until hot.