Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Mini Onion Tarts and a Giveaway!!!

Congratulations, Shelby, on the four-year anniversary of The Life and Loves of Grumpy's Honeybunch!

Shelby of The Life and Loves of  Grumpy's Honeybunch is celebrating her four-year blog anniversary and when she invited me to participate in her celebration, I had to say yes.  I knew Shelby before her blogging days, knew she was a fine cook and an equally fine person and so it is my privilege and delight to join her and other bloggers in marking this special occasion.

In her true, generous Honeybunch style,  Shelby is giving away a fabulous $50 gift certificate (see her post for details) to one lucky Canadian or U.S. commenter whose name will be drawn by Phil, her beloved Grumpy.  The winner will be announced on January 8, 2012.  So please leave a comment on my post no later than 5 p.m. on January 7, and visit the other wonderful bloggers who have linked to this event to see what delicious bites they have cooked up. Leave a comment with them as well to increase your chances of winning.  Good eating and good luck!

Shelby asked us to write about someone who has made a difference in our lives, and my first thought was my sainted grandmother.  She was the one who taught me to cook in her little two room house. She also taught me about God and she taught me about love and loyalty and she taught me about friendship because she was also my best friend. Then I started thinking of all my other family members and how important they are to me, and then I started thinking about my friends.  I am not going to get all preachy here because this is a food blog, but just let me make one statement:  I know God lives because I see Him in those who have blessed my life..

It's impossible to pick the one person who has made the biggest impact or has been the great influence because each one has made me a a better person than I was before.  So I decided to go with the one friend  I shared the most food history with, and she is Jane H.  Jane and I lived next door to each other, we worked at the same offices, got into numerous harmless shenanigans together that she put me up to.  She was the sister of my heart.

When it came to holidays and celebrations of any kind, it was Jane who'd decide we'd have to have a party.  Before I knew it, our two houses  would be abuzz as we spent hours pouring over cookbooks, magazines,  and recipes, planning, making lists, discarding ideas, adopting new ones, and cooking!!  When the day came, there didn't seem to be enough ovens or time and yet somehow it all came together. We'd open the doors to dozens of friends and family members and soon our guests would be eating and laughing and talking and eating some more, oohing and aaahing over the abundance and diversity we'd spread out.  Such great fun we had. It seemed that we hardly cleared the tables and Jane would be dreaming of the next occasion. 

Even after I moved away to New Hampshire, we talked to each other almost every day, and Jane was still planning parties and get togethers.  It was like living next door to her again as we discussed recipes, food preparations and decorations.  We were each other's go-to person.

As life would have it, my cherished friend, is no longer with us.  It's only been a few short months but I still miss her as deeply as if I had only lost her yesterday.  Even now as I looked for appetizer recipes for a family get-together for the holiday, I was thinking, I should ask Jane what she'd think of these.  I'm sure she'd have something outrageous to say about making sure everyone ate one so we'd all have onion breath at the party.  Then she would consider the monochromatic color scheme of my presention, (she loved beautiful things and beautiful presentation and it was she who did all the breathtaking decorating), she'd firmly suggest that I add some color to my all white plate.

And I'd have to report back and say, "Jane, these went over a storm!  They flew off the milk glass cake plate  (you know the one I have with the ruffly edge that looks like ribbon candy....I doubled it as an appetizer plate, you'd be so proud of my creativity).  They were virtually all gone within the first 20 minutes of putting them out. One of the guests called them onion candy!"

And yes, for Jane...I did add vibrant green parsley  sprigs in between the mini tarts to give some color.  I  had to smile when I overhead someone say..."Oh, how pretty!"

Onion Tarts

These can be made up to one day ahead, and reheated just before serving.  Or if you prefer and time and oven space is at a premium, these can be served at room temperature.

2 tablespoons butter
1 to 2 large sweet onions (Vadalia or Walla-Walla), chopped small
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup water

2 large eggs beaten
1 cup half and half  (or milk, or light cream, or heavy cream)
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
pinch of salt (optional)

1 package refrigerated two-crust pie crust, brought to room temperature

Preheat oven to 375*F.  Spray a mini-muffin pan or mini-tart pan with spray release.  Set aside.

I used a mini-muffin pan (24 mini muffins to the pan) plus a 12-mini muffin pan and used a 2 inch cookie cutter to cut circles of dough out of the refrigerated pastry crust.  Any leftover dough, I rerolled and cut out more circles. I have a tart presser, but couldn't find it, so just used the end of a wooden handle oyster shell opener (!) and gently pressed the dough into the muffin openings. I used my fingers to pinch the dough up the sides if it needed it. In all, I made 40 mini tarts.  You may need to adjust the size of your cookie cutter if your mini-tart pan has larger openings.

Melt the butter in a large skillet and add the onions and brown sugar.  Cook, stirring frequently, over medium high heat,  for about three minutes.  Add the 1/2 cup water and stir, for about five minutes or until the onions turn a golden brown, and water is evaporated.  Allow to cool a bit.

While the onions are cooking, beat the eggs and add the half and half, Swiss cheese and black pepper and the salt if you are using it.  Mix well.  Add the cooled onions.

Using a tablespoon, use one scant tablespoon of filling and fill the tarts.  These will puff as they cook so you don't want to overfill them.  Bake for 20 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center of the tart tests clean.  Let them rest for five minutes before removing, or if you're not going to serve them right away, leave them in the pan to reheat. 

To remove, I tried a slim knife, but found that a small spoon even worked better.  The spray release used before baking helped these to remove easily, and I didn't lose a single one.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Danish Pastry

 I am a great admirer of beautiful pastries and cakes and have long believed that I did not possess the wherewithal to make anything so beautiful as a Danish pastry in my own tiny kitchen.  However, after seeing a post on Soap Mom's Kitchen for Danish pastry, I was encouraged.  If you have not visited Soap Mom's Kitchen, I hope you do.  She has so many delicious recipes and photographs of beautiful foods she's made that will both delight and inspire you. Take a look at some of the celebration cakes she's made...oh my!!

The recipe is going to look long and complicated, but, let me assure you, it is not!  The majority of time is resting and rising time, with the longest resting time being overnight in the refrigerator.  There's no kneading, just rolling.  A final pinching of the dough at the end, and filling and glazing and you will have pastries that will earn you big wows and oodles of aaahs. 

Roll up your sleeves.  Take a breath.  You can do this.  It's easy peasy, lemon squeezy.  Take one easy step at a time and remember to start these a day in advance.

Danish Pastry

Cheese Filling
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine and mix well.

Honey Glaze
1/3 cup honey
2 teaspoons water
Heat in a microwave safe bowl and use a pastry brush to glaze the baked Danish.

Confectioner's Glaze
3/4 cups confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon of water (or enough to achieve desired consistency for drizzling)
Mix well.  Use to drizzle on top of cooled Danish.

Optional but nice
Jam or preserve  or curd of choice to add on top of the cheese filling
Toasted sliced almonds

Oven 350* F.
Parchment-lined or generously greased cookie sheet.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

For the yeast dough starter, put into a small bowl, like a custard cup, or one cup measuring cup, the following ingredients:
1/4 cup warm water (105*F to 115*F)
1 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
Wait 5 to 10 minutes to activate the yeast; it will be bubbly.

In a separate large bowl add and whisk together
1/2 cup milk at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
Set aside.

In a food processor add
2 3/4 cups flour
2 sticks cold, unsalted butter
Process only until butter forms large clumps.  Do not overprocess into a meal.  You want to see clumps of butter.  Have another 1/2 cup of flour in reserve to bring the dough together into a soft ball.

In the bowl with the egg, milk, sugar mixture add the yeast dough starter. Mix well.  Add flour-butter mixture, and using a spoon bring the dough together.  You can mix the dough with your impeccably clean hands as well.  Using the reserved 1/2 cup flour, bring the dough together to make a soft dough ball.  Do not overwork the dough as you do not want to melt the butter.  Grease the bow slightly with vegetable oil and gently turn the dough over in the bowl to lightly coat the dough ball with the oil. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, on a well floured surface, roll out the dough into a large 16-inch square and fold into thirds.

(Note that there are still big pieces of butter.)

Fold into thirds again.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Take the dough out and roll again into a 10 x 20 rectangle and refold as before.  Cover and refrigerate.  Do this for a total of 3 times.

After the third roll into a 10 x 20 rectangle, cut into strips. (I used a ruler and made 1-inch wide strips).  I cut the long way, but in hindsight, I think it would have been better to cut these into strips from the short side.  The long strips made the dough circles too large, and I ended up cutting them in half.

 Take two strips and twist them, forming the twisted strips into a circle and pinching the ends together. 

Pinch the inner part of the ring all the way around towards the center to make a base for the filling.  Spray the tops of the danish with spray release and cover gently with clear wrap.  Let rise for about 35 minutes in a warm spot or until proofed.  (My Danish were uneven in size, but nobody cared, smiles.)

Add filling and a tablespoon of preserves on top of the cheese if you wish.  Bake in a 350*F oven for about 18 minutes or until golden brown. 

Glaze with honey glaze, a drizzle of confectioner's glaze, and if you want to guild the lily, a few toasted sliced almonds.

One of the beauties of this recipe is that the dough can be prepared ahead of time, frozen, defrosted, and finished off at your pleasure. I did this, and it worked wonderfully.

To prepare in advance and then freeze, prepare the dough up to and including twisting the strips into a circle. Spray with the pan release, put on a tray and place in your freezer for a couple of hours. Once completely frozen, remove the pastries from the freezer and store in a plastic bag. When you are ready to bake, defrost the rings (they defrost quite quickly) and proceed with pinching the inside of the rings towards the center to make the base for the filling. Allow to rise and then bake and glaze.

I confess to cheating a little with the rising. I had packed these up to take to a family gathering, and not being in my own kitchen and being a bit underfoot, I put the Danish in the oven not fully proofed. The dough must be very forgiving as they rose beautifully and no one was the wiser.

There's quite a bit of sweetness going on with these. The next time (and there will be many next times!) I think I'll go with unsweetened jam, as I used a regular raspberry preserve. The purchased lemon curd I used was positively divine in this.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pumpkin Pie from Scratch

This year, for the very first time, I grew my own pumpkins from seed.  There were dozens of promise-filled blossoms from the six seeds I planted, but torrential rains and subsequent floodings of my garden took all but three of my pumpkins.  Even so, I was able to harvest them and make enough puree for 12 pumpkin pies (see footnotes on making the puree). 

We have a certain product here called "One Pie," and I believe, this pie filling is offered exclusively in New England.  They offer squash and pumpkin pie fillings, and we've probably enjoyed hundreds of pies through the years from the well-loved recipes on the back of their cans.  I tried the famous national brand, and even Ole Sweetie-Pi noticed the difference and commented that the pumpkin pie tasted "different and not as good;" it seems his own mother used the "One Pie" brand as well. 

When it came time to chose a recipe for my first from-scratch pumpkin pie, it came as no surprise that I turned to the recipe on the back of "One Pie", and it worked wonderfully.  Delicious pumpkin with molasses and a bit of spice.  This pie is an integral  and delicious part of our holiday traditions and memories. The holidays just aren't the same without it.

Pumpkin Pie

Pastry crust for one deep dish, 9-inch pie plate

15 ounces pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt (scant)
1 1/2 tablespoon butter, melted
1-12 oz. can evaporated milk
dash of lemon juice, optional
1 cup sugar
1/8 cup molasses
2 eggs, beaten

Have prepared a deep dish, 9-inch pie plate.  Preheat oven to 450*F.

Sift sugar, cornstarch, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg together.  Mix this with the pumpkin puree.  Add eggs, eaten, melted butter, molasses and milk.  Add a dash of lemon juice (if desired).
Pour contents into the prepared pie plate.  Bake in 450*F oven for 15 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 350*F and continue to bake for 50 minutes or until a thin sharp blade inserted in the center of the pie tests clean.  Allow to cool before serving.

To Make Pumpkin Puree

The whole idea of making pumpkin puree intimidated me for some reason, don't ask me why.  Perhaps it's because I've never had a from-scratch pumpkin pie, and have never known anyone who made their own pumpkin puree, or perhaps it's because the directions I read seemed rather vague and uncertain. If you decide to undertake this, let me reassure you, this is easy peasy, lemon squeezy. There is no question that this takes some time, but knowing that what I am serving is fresh and organic and the fruit of my labors makes it all worth it.

The most difficult part is cutting up the pumpkin.  I washed my pumpkin under cold running water and used a vegetable brush to clean the outside.  I used a combination of several knives to cut it open.  Start by cutting around the stem and putting off the "cap," and then slicing down the sides, making long slabs of pumpkin slices.  You don't have to be particular about the size or the shape; you can always cut the larger pieces into smaller ones.  Whatever you do, exercise great caution as  your knife can easily slip and you could hurt yourself.

Grab yourself a large garbage bowl because you'll need it for the seeds and strings that will be removed from the pumpkin's insides.  I used a large soup spoon as well as a large melon baller, scraping down until all that was left was a clean, seed-free, string-free inside. Cut any large pieces of pumpkin into fist-sized pieces. 

For the next part I found my crockpot to be the perfect tool.  Put in  only two tablespoons of water (do not be tempted to put in more ~ the pumpkin has a lot of natural water) and place one layer of pumpkin, skin side down, into the crockpot.  The rest of the pumpkin slices can be placed skin side up, or however it will fit nicely.  Put the crockpot on high and let it go for five or six hours.  You can test for doneness with a sharp knife, and if it pierces easily (as testing for doneness in a boiled potato), you are done.

Chances are the cooked pumpkin is going to be quite watery.  Using your large soup spoon or other favorite implement, scrape the flesh away from the peel.  You'll probably want to put the flesh into a colander to give it an opportunity to drain while you are working on the rest of the pumpkin pieces.  You can reserve the juice for making a gorgeous soup stock or not; I leave that up to you.

Put the pumpkin flesh through a food mill, or do as I did, and use the food processor.  This will help to break down any fibers to give you a smooth puree.  The puree is going to look pretty watery, and to tell you the truth, that part troubled me.  I put the puree through a fine sieve to squeeze out as much water as I could and it still looked watery.  I was concerned that the pie would be watery as a result, even though I had found a couple of web recipes that positively said not to worry about it.  I chose to worry.

Good fortune smiled down on me, as I found an invaluable hint in one of my little 1946 pamphlets entitled Good Vermont Cooks.  The recipe submitter said she cooked down her pumpkin puree even further by putting it in a sauce pan and cooking and stirring over medium heat until the water evaporated.  A bonus in doing this is that the puree goes from a pale yellow color to the deep orange color that we are familiar with.  I pressed the puree up against the side of the sauce pan to see if any water seeped out and once it looked dry and the puree held its shape when I dragged my spoon through it, I decided it was done.

From there, the puree can be frozen or used as you would any canned pumpkin.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Date, Banana, Coconut Cake

After my last post where I lamented about all the sugar in the cake I made, I decided to make a cake without refined sugar. This cake is plenty sweet, as the sweetness comes from the natural sugar found in the dates, banana, and coconut.  I think sugar is sugar, regardless of the source, but I feel a little more righteous about its not being the refined stuff.

Sniff, I admit to missing the refined sugar, which gives baked goods tenderness and volume (which is why folks should be careful about tinkering with the amount of sugar called for in baking).  This cake, though tasty, was a bit toothy (read: rubbery).  I don't mind it, but for those who are acutely aware and particular of texture and tenderness, you might feel less forgiving and put off by it. 

I found this recipe in The Herb Companion, a magazine I greatly enjoy for its wholesome and healthy advice and articles on living better. 

Date, Banana, Coconut Cake

1/3 cup mashed bananas
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups water
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups chopped dates

1/3 cup chopped dates
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 350*F.  Grease and flour a 9x12x2 inch baking pan.

Mash bananas and butter together until creamy.  Add eggs, vanilla and water; beat.  Add flour, baking soda and baking powder. Mix well. Stir in dates.  Spoon batter into prepared pan. 

Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle over batter.  Bake 20-25 minutes  or until wooden toothpick inserted in center of cake tests clean.

Cool cake in pan on wire rack.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sour Cream Streusel Cake with Cherries

I've been looking for something a little different for breakfast, a take-along for an early family Thanksgiving celebration, and I happened upon this recipe in one of our local grocery store sale flyers. What caught my eye was that this coffee cake not only had streusel, but it also had cherries, a fruit I tend to eat out of hand but rarely use in cooking.  The contrast of bright red cherries nestled in yellow cake, topped with a lovely white glaze looked enticing and delicious.  . 

My cake did not look anything the way it did in the flyer so I checked the store's website, and surprise, surprise the directions were slightly different in preparation.  If I were to make this again, I'd follow the directions in the link provided below in My Notes because I prefer the presentation.  However,  I'm not sure the cherries would really stay atop the cake; I think they may still have a tendency to sink in the batter.

Just two caveats about this cake.  It is very sweet.  A smallish slice of this was almost too much for me, and I love sweet. It was perfect with a cup of black tea, and when I reduced the sugar I normally add to my coffee, the sweetness balanced out the coffee.

 The other thing is this recipe calls for half a cup of cherry pie filling, but a can holds more than a cupful.  What to do with the rest?  If you happen to have some pie crust, you could make quick and easy handheld pies, topped with a little of the glaze from this coffee cake.  Or just eat the leftover cherries, which is what I did, smiles.

Sour Cream Streusel Cake with Cherries

Streusel Ingredients
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt**
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces**
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup cherry pie filling

Batter Ingredients
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt**
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla**

Glaze Ingredients
1 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon milk (or enough to achieve desired spreading consistency)

Preheat your oven to 350*F.  Grease a 9-inch springform pan.  Line the bottom of the pan with waxed paper; grease and flour the waxed paper. 

To make the streusel, combine the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt.  Cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in nuts and cherry filling. ** Set aside. 

To make the batter, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in small bowl.  In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter  until smooth, about one minute.  Gradually add brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.  Beat in the eggs one at a time.  Blend the sour cream and vanilla.  Stir in the flour mixture until just blended.

Spread half the batter into the prepared springform pan.  Sprinkle with half the streusel.  Carefully cover with remaining batter (as the batter is thick, I drop by spoonfuls and then  spread/"stretch" the batter over the streusel using a couple of forks or spoons, pulling the batter in opposite directions).  Sprinkle the remaining streusel over the top.

Bake about 50 minutes** or until cake is golden brown and pulls away from the side of the pan.  Set on a rack to cool.  Drizzle glaze on top.

To make the glaze, combine the glaze ingredients and stir until smooth. If glaze is too thick, add additional milk by drops stirring in between, until a desired consistency is achieved.  Drizzle over cake. 

Serves 12

I didn't use unsalted butter.  For the streusel I used salted butter and omitted the added salt entirely; for the batter I only used a pinch of salt.

The recipe calls for 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla.  I used one teaspoon vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract.

The store's flyer says to mix the cherry pie filling with the streusel. The store's website recipe says to keep the two separated and to divide the streusel between the two halves of the cake batter and to sprinkle the remainder on the top of the batter and then add the cherries on top of that.
Please take the time to line the bottom of your springform pan with the waxed paper.  It makes a huge difference in getting it out of the pan and onto a cake plate.

No way did my cake cook in 50 minutes.  At the end of 50 minutes my cake's center was most definitely unbaked and I ended up covering with tin foil and baking another 20 minutes. 

Would I make this again?  I think the idea is good. I would definitely reduce the amount of glaze; in my opinion it's there for looks as the cake is plenty sweet enough.  This is a pretty coffee cake and a  different than what I normally make.  It's definitely good for a larger gathering.  I can say "definitely maybe."

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Salisbury Steak

I have maybe a half dozen or so recipes that I fall back on with regularity when I want something tasty but relatively inexpensive, and one of those dishes for me is Salisbury steak.  This is not true steak, but dressed up ground beef, purportedly developed during leaner times when home cooks needed  one more delicious way to serve the less costlier hamburg.  Another source says this dish was created by a Dr. Salisbury as part of a low carbohydrate diet.  Whatever the history, we enjoy this flavorful, filling dish.  For us, it's kind of a special family meal, but I certainly wouldn't hesitate to serve this to friends who are like family. A pound and a half of hamburg easily serves and satisfies six people.

Salisbury Steak

1 10.5-ounce can of condensed French onion soup, divided
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder

In a large bowl, combine the ground beef with 1/3 cup of condensed onion soup (reserving the remainder for the gravy), bread crumbs, egg, salt and pepper.  Shape into 6 oval patties.

Brown both sides of  the patties in a  skillet large enough that the patties are not crowded.  Remove from pan and drain off the excess fat.  Put browned patties back into the skillet.

In medium bowl, combine the remaining onion soup and flour and mix until smooth.  Mix in the remaining gravy ingredients and pour the mixture over the patties.  Cover and cook for 20 minutes, occasionally stirring the gravy, being careful not to break the patties.

My Notes:  For us, the recipe as written does not provide nearly enough gravy.  I didn't do it for the photograph, but waited until after the picture taking was done to add lots of gravy to my mashed potatoes, smiles. I buy two cans of condensed French onion soup, using the 1/3 cup required for the hamburg, and using the remainder, plus one entire can for the gravy, and doubling the rest of the ingredients.  You may or may not want to reduce the mustard (I use yellow prepared mustard, like the kind you'd use on hot dogs), ketchup, and Worcestershire, because, as I mentioned, the sauce is quite flavorful and could be deemed too piquant for those who like subtler tastes.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

"Ultimate" Chocolate Brownies

As I've  previously mentioned, I am reluctant to use the words "best" or "ultimate" in connection with any recipe because we all have our own definition of what makes something the best or the ultimate. Brownies are no exception.  Do you like fudgey or cakey, made with melted chocolate squares or powdered chocolate, or maybe you like them blonde? Thick or thin? Frosted or unfrosted? With nuts or without?  See what I mean?  Lots of variables before one can apply the moniker "ultimate" but as this recipe was entitled "Ultimate Chocolate Brownies," I decided to leave the name alone and let you decide if they deserve the designation.

Personally, I like a thick cakey brownie with walnuts.  I'm not crazy about fudgey brownies, because if I wanted fudge, I'd make fudge, but sometimes with a cakey brownie, they can be, well, too cake-like.  Enter the "uultimate" brownie.  This brownie seems to have the best of both worlds.  The chocolate flavor shines through brilliantly, with just enough flour to hold it together and give it a  moist, cake-like texture without being too fudgey.  I love the sugary crust that formed on the top as it baked, a mark of an appealing brownie to my eyes.

The directions are easy-peasy, lemon squeezy, but you will  need a stand mixer or be able to stand and mix for what seems like forever in order for the brownies to develop the volume required. 

Ultimate Chocolate Brownies

8 one-ounce squares of unsweetened chocolate
1 cup butter

5 eggs
3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts, lightly toasted

Grease a 9" x 13" baking pan.  Preheat oven to 350*F (or 325*F for glass or dark metal pan). 

Unwrap the chocolate squares.  In a small to medium sized saucepan, over low heat, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring constantly to prevent burning the chocolate.   Remove from heat and set aside.

While the chocolate is cooling, in a mixer beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla at high speed for ten minutes

Blend in the chocolate mixture, flour and salt until just mixed.  Stir in the nuts.  Pour into prepared pan.

Bake brownies for 35 to 40 minutes, taking care not to overbake.  Cool before cutting. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Egg Custard Pie by Moody's Diner

Ever overbuy on a particular ingredient and then run out of time to use it?  I'm surprised at how many bunches of celery I have, or butter (I have at 8 pounds of butter most times), and eggs and milk.  It's like every time I go to the grocery store, these items jump into my cart and follow me home.

This week, I had two dozen eggs I had to use.  I get hinky when foods get close to their sell-by date, (I know that's not the same as expiration date, but nevertheless, for me it's use it or lose it) and that prompts me to pore through my cookbooks, which lead me to custard pie. 

I cannot tell you the last time I had a custard pie ~ probably when my own beloved grandmother made them decades ago.  When I asked Sweetie-Pi about custard pie, he had fond recollections of his grandmother's custard pies, so it must be a grandma thing, smiles. Regardless, if you have grandchildren or not, when you have plenty of eggs and milk you need to use up, and only pantry items to make dessert, you can't go wrong making this.  It goes together quickly and easily, with nothing fancy but plenty of delicious reward..

Grandmas aren't the only ones who have a reputation for their custard pies.  They seem to be a mainstay dessert of many roadside diners. I love the diner experience:  unpretentious food,  the booths with Formica topped tables and red vinyl bench seats, stools at long counter tops, chalkboard menus, and waitresses who seem to call everyone "Hon."   Here in New England, one of the better known diners is Moody's Diner, located in Waldoboro, Maine.  I haven't had the good fortune to eat there (though Sweetie-Pi claims he has when he lived in Maine, and says their deserve their renown) but I do have the good fortune of having their cookbook, What's Cooking at Moody's Diner.  When I saw their recipe, I knew it was the one I had to make.

Moody's Custard Pie
(from What's Cooking at Moody's Diner)

8 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 level tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon salt
5 cups milk

In a large bowl, beat eggs with flour, salt, sugar and nutmeg. Stir in milk** and pour batter through strainer into deep 9-inch pie shell.  Bake 15 minutes at 400*F and reduce heat to 325*F and bake 25 to 30 minutes** or until pie is set.

My Notes:  This makes a lot of custard.  Even with my deep dish Pyrex pie plate, I still had probably a half a cup of custard that wouldn't fit into the pie plate. Would have made a nice single cup of custard if you wanted to take the time to cook it in a hot water bath, I think.

Do not skip straining the custard through a sieve.  It helps to smooth out the custard, removing any lumps of flour or strings of egg.

No way did this cook in the time allotted.  At the end of  30 minutes, my pie was very undercooked.  In total, I probably added another 15 minutes of cooking time.  Let me forewarn you, however.  My oven does not like to cook custard anything; I have the same issues with bread pudding.  Your best bet is to use a very thin knife at the end of 25 minutes and pierce the center of the pie.  If the knife comes out clean, the pie is done.  The center will still look wobbly, but that's fine as the pie will firm up once it's cooled completely.  Be careful not to overcook the pie as it will turn watery. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Old Fashioned Butter Cake

How to start this post?  YUMMMM...we loved this cake...we couldn't stay away from it...we ate it for dessert and then we ate it for breakfast...  This beautiful cake recipe is a 100 year old treasure and a keeper!  Reeni of Cinnamon Girl discovered this recipe in an old McCall's cookbook published in 1910, and she too fell in love with this fluffy, moist, easy-to-prepare cake and was good enough to share it with the rest of us so that we could enjoy it as well.  Thank you, Reeni!  If you are not familiar with Reeni's blog, please take a few minutes to go and visit her.  Her food is fabulous, and her photography makes you want more!

At first I was skeptical that a cake recipe made with all-purpose flour could be be both fluffy and moist; in the past, I've only achieved that kind of result when using cake flour.  Also, I pretty consistently only have King Arthur Flour in the pantry, which tends to make a denser (but still delicious!) cake.  Imagine my surprise when my first bite revealed a cake that surpassed all expectations.  I don't know if it's the one tablespoon of baking powder or the four minutes total of beating, but whatever, the secret, this recipe works!
This will be a recipe that I will turn to again and again.

Old Fashioned Butter Cake
(from Reeni's Cinnamon Girl blog

2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1  1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350*F.  Grease and flour two 8 inch x 2 inch baking pans and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

Add butter, milk, and vanilla.  With a hand mixer, beat for  2 minutes, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl. 

Add eggs and beat for 2 minutes more.

Pour batter into prepared pans, dividing equally between the pans.  Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Remove from oven.

Cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then turn cakes out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Frost with your favorite frosting.  I used my favorite chocolate frosting, the one on the back of the Hersey's cocoa can. 

"Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Frosting

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or margarine
2/3 cup Hershey's cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar (confectioners' sugar)
1/3 cup milk  (plus an additional few drops to make a nice consistency)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt butter.  Stir in cocoa.  Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating on medium speed to spreading consistency.  Add more milk if needed.  Stir in vanilla.  About 2 cups frosting

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tomato Juice

It's been a while since I've chatted with you, but it hasn't been for lack of desire.  It's been a crazy summer, one of sadness, misfortune, miscommunication, and just downright cosmic ornery-ness, it seems.  We all go through these cycles, and it was just my turn to endure and grow and learn from it all.

In the meantime, I haven't done a lot of new cooking, relying on the quick and familiar in an uncertain time. However, one of the goals I had set for myself this season was to have a small garden and learn how to do some canning.  I turned the plot over by hand (as I said, it was a small garden), fertilized and planted, and everything seemed to go along swimmingly. I was so happy to see my little garden flourishing!

Then the rains came.  Soft and gentle at first, and we were happy to see it water the garden,  And then it didn't stop, and then it rained so hard that my yard flooded, became a pond, and a lot of my back-breaking effort was washed away. I am not complaining; our sister state, Vermont, has suffered severe losses of homes and property, and businesses.  Some roads are still barely passable.  For us, it was more of an inconvenience so we were fortunate to be able to  salvage what we could, and a few gorgeous tomatoes were among them.

We drink a lot of tomato juice in this household, maybe a half a gallon every week and we never seem to tire of it.  We take the occasional break and try other juices but always return to tomato juice, so it was no big surprise that I decided to try homemade tomato juice.

Just let me assure you that there is no comparison!  Good golly, Miss Molly, this was good!  It took a little getting used to because everthing was fresh (and admittedly gave poor Ole Sweetie-Pi "bubbles in the belly" because he's not accustomed to consuming glasses and glasses of fresh veggies, smiles).

If you enjoy having fresh vegetables, no preservatives or chemical addivities, I believe you'll enjoy this.  It's like drinking liquid sunshine.

Tomato Juice

12 medium tomatoes, cored and cut into quarters
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup chopped onion
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 teaspoon minced fresh parsley
1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon sugar

Combine the first six ingredients in a Dutch oven and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat, cover, and allow to simmer for 30 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Put the vegetables through a food mill or a sieve, squeezing out as much liquid as possible.  Discard cooked vegetables (or if you're clever and frugal, perhaps use in a soup?)

To the juice, add the spices. Taste for seasoning and adjust to your personal taste.   Chill the juice thoroughly before serving. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Everlasting Yeast and a Bread Recipe

I think you know by now that I want to encourage those who are yeast shy to at least try and make a loaf of bread.  I've posted a couple of recipes on my blog here that are perfect for beginners, no kneading and yeast batter breads, and then a couple of other breads once you've built up your confidence.  I am by no stretch of the imagination an expert, but I've made more homemade bread than a lot of folks so I say with humility that I think I have a feel for it.  And it's a good thing, because you'll need it for what I want to share with you.

If you ever wanted to try your hand at making homemade bread,  this is absolutely not the one you want to be your first. No, it's not difficult, there's no kneading, so that's not it, but it does require a "feel" when putting it together.  And it requires patience. 

I used a yeast starter called everlasting yeast.  My sweet friend Peggy, of Peggy's Pantry, had posted an interesting article on long term storage of  comfort food.  This is a subject I'm greatly interested in, and Peggy has been an angel about sharing information and resources.  She referred me to another one of her friend's sites, Jarolyn's Back to Basics:  Provident Practical Preparedness, and it was there I found an interesting article on making your own yeast.

When I did the post on homemade butter, I lamented about the cost of butter at the supermarket.  But have you seen the price of a decent looking loaf of bread?  Gasp!  Almost $6.00 here. For a loaf that is comprised of mostly air, it's $3.00.  Absolutely outrageous, in my opinion. The cost of yeast isn't exorbitant, but it's not inexpensive.  With some time and attention, you can have yeast that will last long enough to become a family heirloom, smiles.

Yet there was the tiniest issue with the everlasting yeast.  I wasn't able to find a bread recipe that specifically used it. I asked Jarolyn and she suggested I use the water and starter in place of the liquid in the recipe, and adjust the flour accordingly.  So, I had to experiment.

I loathe experimenting with recipes.  I am pretty much a recipe follower.  Oh, sure, I might add a little extra this or a little extra of that, omit an ingredient if it's something I don't like, or swap one thing for another, but that's about the extent of my creativity ~ and my courage. 

But I had a quart of starter and now I was committed to use it.  I figured I needed a big recipe because of the volume I had (and no where have I found does it say you can use less and keep the rest...but that's an experiment for another day).  I found one that worked satisfactorily, but let me cut to the chase to share the recipes for the starter and the bread, and the mixed reviews of the results.
We are talking a farm-sized recipe here.

Everlasting Yeast

1 quart (4 cups) warm, unsalted, potato water
1/2 tablespoon dry yeast (1 1/2 teaspoons)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups white or whole wheat flour

Mix all the ingredients together in a glass, plastic, or ceramic container (not stainless steel).  Loosely cover the top with a cheesecloth (I just kept the lid to my container ajar and it was fine).  Leave in a warm place to allow the mixture to ferment. I stirred it a couple of times as the ingredients will separate, and then left it overnight on the counter.  You will see it start to bubble and if you smell it, it will smell yeasty and perhaps a little like alcohol.  Don't worry.  It's supposed to.  I then put it in the refrigerator and it sat there for a couple of weeks, and I stirred it every couple of days, while I looked for a bread recipe.

The night before I wanted to use the starter, I took it out of the fridge and let it set out overnight on the counter.  Stir well just before using. Use the entire starter, reserving one third cup of the to starter for the next batch of everlasting yeast. To your one third cup of reserved starter add everything except the 1/2 tablespoon yeast, and follow the steps as explained in the beginning.

The Bread Recipe

As I said I could not find a recipe that specifically required the use of the everlasting yeast. The following is an adapted recipe.

1/2 cup butter melted, warm
1/2 tablespoon (1 1/2 teaspoons) salt**
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs slightly beaten
1 full batch of everlasting yeast (minus 1/3 cup for next batch of starter)
11 cups all purpose flour, plus more to achieve appropriate dough consistency

In a very large bowl, combine the butter, salt, sugar, beaten eggs.  Add the everlasting yeast. Mix well.

Add 3 cups of flour to the wet mixture and stir until well combined.  Add another 8 cups of flour, 2 cups at a time, mixing well in between. 

Now, at this point, the dough was still too gloppy for me, and I sifted in  1/2 cup of flour at a time, stirring with each addition, until I achieved a proper bread dough consistency.  There is where prior experience and a feel for bread making is important.  I can't tell you how much I added, but it was probably another 2 cups and even then the dough was very soft, more like a stiff batter dough, definitely too wet to knead.  At the risk of making the dough too heavy with flour and ending up with a doorstop I decided it was enough.  Plus, I had qualms on  how well the everlasting yeast would work in making the bread rise.

I greased my bowl and let the dough rise, until double in size, 90-120 minutes.  I punched it down, and divided the dough into thirds, putting two of the thirds in  greased 8x5 loaf pans and making a round loaf (slashing the top for decoration) with the remainder.  Let the dough rise a second time, until double in size, another 90 minutes or so.  Dough rose beautifully, but more slowly than "conventional" yeast breads.

Towards the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 375*F.  Put the loaves on the middle rack and bake for approximately 45 minutes or until they are a deep golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Remove from the bread from the oven and turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.

This made 3 loaves of bread, but only because I used one portion to make a round loaf.  That last portion could have been divided into 2 loaves, for a total of 4.

Bread Review:  The first thing we noticed is that the bread was not salty enough.  I followed the original recipe using only the 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and the bread was bland.  (I've since made another batch of bread using the starter,  1/2 white and 1/2 whole wheat, and a full 1 tablespoon of salt and  it was very good!). 

The bread was not particularly beautiful to look at, smiles.  It looks rustic but not artisan, if you know what I mean.  Perhaps it needs an egg wash to give it a bit of a glaze or some melted butter after it comes out of the oven.

This bread keeps very well.  Even after a week, the first loaf I had cut into still seemed fresh (though I wonder if credit could be due in part to those special amber colored bags produced just for preserving bread).  Also, while I generally don't like frozen bread, this bread froze and thawed beautifully without loss of flavor or texture.

As I hinted above, I have made a second batch of bread, with some changes and greater success.  I'll share that story in another post.  

Friday, September 2, 2011

Potato Pizza

I was having one of those blue, low energy, need-lots-of-carb days, and boy, oh boy, does this delicious pizza fill the need and then some.  If you are one who likes stuffed or twice baked potatoes and pizza, I believe you will enjoy this.  This pizza combines the best of two worlds and was a winner with both me and Sweetie-Pi.

The original recipe said to bake the potatoes; I boiled mine in unsalted water, but only because I wanted the potato water for something else I was making (everlasting yeast, a post to come soon).  For those who are in a hurry, the microwave would work well here. I think this recipe is pretty flexible; add more bacon, substitute with sausage, onions instead of the scallions.  Whatever you like on your baked stuffed potatoes would probably work here. I skimmed through the reviews on Allrecipes, and some of the folks said they used half sour cream and half ranch dressing.  Now doesn't that sound tasty!
I use an easy and simple pizza crust recipe  (found here)  that  requires no rise time and no kneading.  I have given up attempting to duplicate the wood-fired oven, pizza parlor pizza  (no wood-fired oven for starters and I don't own a pizza stone either)  so I've settled for ease and convenience as well as a good homemade bready crust.  This crust is thick enough to hold the heartiest of toppings.
Baked Potato Pizza
(adapted from  Allrecipes.Com)

Your favorite prepared pizza crust or recipe

3 medium potatoes, unpeeled, baked and cooled, cubed
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning (I used a mix of thyme, basil, basil)
1 cup sour cream
6 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
3 green onions (scallions), chopped
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Have a crust ready to go in a 14" round pizza crust pan.** (Make sure you have a bit of a rim on the crust because the toppings you are going to put on are going to make a thick pizza.)  Bake for 400*F for 5 to 6 minutes or until crust starts to brown and feels just firm to the touch.  Remove from oven and set aside.

In the meantime, put the cubed potatoes in a large bowl.  Toss with the melted butter, garlic powder, and seasoning. 

Spread the sour cream over the pizza crust; top with the potato mixture and then scatter the bacon, green onion over that, and add the grated cheeses over all. 

Bake at 400*F for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown.  Remove from the oven and let rest for five minutes before cutting into slices.

**Okay, I don't have a wood-fired oven, a pizza stone, and I don't have a pizza pan.  I just use my rimmed cookie sheet for a pizza pan and have a rectangular pizza, cut into squares to serve.  Tastes the same no matter how it's sliced, grins.  The crust recipe doesn't quite fill the pan from side to side, but that may be because I don't stretch it as thin as some might.  We tend to like a thicker crust for homemade pizzas and considering the weight of the toppings on this pizza, I would urge you to consider it if you are one who prefers a thin crust.

Pizza Crust
(found on Food.com)

1 1/4 ounce package yeast (equals 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 cup water, warmed to about 110*F
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Cornmeal for the pan, nice but not necessary

In a medium sized bowl, combine the yeast and water and stir to dissolve. The yeast should start to bubble after a minute or so.

Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.  Allow to rest for five minutes.

Sprinkle the cornmeal if you're using it on the bottom of the pan.  Press and gently stretch the dough into the pan.  (I might oil my  hands a little to give the dough a little more ease.) 

Bake at 450*F for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Fresh and Creamy Homemade Butter

Depending on which family member you talk to, we were (or we were not) fortunate enough to have a couple of farm animals: a cow, pigs, chickens, ducks, a goat at one point, while we were growing up. The Guernsey cow, Bossy, was my responsibility.  I milked her twice a day, cleaned out her stall, talked to her.  She would moo, look soulfully at me with her big deep brown eyes, and was ever so patient and gentle.

I'd bring the big stainless steel pail of steaming, foaming milk, trying not to slosh as I carried it with both hands in front of me to my mother who would take the pail to strain the milk through cheesecloth.  Into the refrigerator it would go and overnight the milk and the cream would separate, the cream rising to the top.  She'd reserve the cream to make cottage cheese, or my favorite, butter.  I can't stand the flavor of raw milk, I don't like ice cream made fresh on the farm (it all tastes the way a barn smells to me, yuck!) but creamy, pale yellow butter rises above all that. Mom would make loaves of homemade bread or dinner rolls, and I'd have a little bread with my butter.  Lawsy mercy, that butter was food for the gods.

I had a quart of heavy whipping cream that I wasn't going to use for it's planned purpose (and with the exorbitant price of groceries, I am not going to throw it away!!), so I decided to make butter.  Just like Mom's. The funny thing is, I don't remember my mother making butter.  For the life of me I can't picture it. I just remember it being on the table in a covered butter dish.  It was a white ceramic chicken with a red comb sitting on a white ceramic nest.  No, I don't want one.

Sooooooo, I had to do a little research, and believe me when I tell you, there's probably nothing easier that you can do that will yield such delicious results.

This is not a recipe, so much as a method.  You can use virtually any amount of cream so leftover heavy cream will never have to be wasted again.   And an added plus?  The liquid that is extracted as you whip the cream is real buttermilk, and can be used in any recipe that calls for it.  Cake, scones, buttermilk chicken, fried green tomatoes....oh the luscious uses of buttermilk.


A pint or more of fresh heavy cream or whipping cream , either will work fine
Pinch of salt, if you want your butter salted

Put your cream in the bowl of your mixer or in a bowl large enough to hold the cream (plus room enough for expansion as the butter starts to take shape.), whip the cream. That's it!

Mix at medium speed; it's the same as if for making whipped cream except you are going to go way beyond the stiff peak stage of whipped cream.

Once you get past the whipped cream stage, the cream is going to look curdled.  That's fine; it's supposed to, because now the cream and the buttermilk are beginning to separate. 

Things might get a little messy here, you may want to find a way to cover your bowl with plastic wrap while you continue to whip the butter.  I didn't run into this, but others do.  (It may be because I used a deep V-shaped mixing bowl so the heavy butter stayed at the bottom.) 

Once it looked really curdled, I strained the butter/buttermilk through a  fine mesh strainer and then a double layer of cheesecloth into a container.  It takes a bit of hand strength to do it, but you want to get out as much of the buttermilk as possible.  The butter squeezes out of the cheesecloth, but I don't know of another way to do it, so you'll have to scrape some butter off the cheesecloth if your frugal, as I am, smiles.

I put my now-lump-of-butter into the bowl I whipped the cream in, and rinse the lump under cold running water.  I want to rinse out as much butter milk as possible because removing the buttermilk will help to preserve the butter.  I smoosh the lump around a bit until the water runs clear.  If you are really particular about this, you can use a large wooden paddle and press the butter against the inside of a bowl to remove any extra liquid.

Refrigerate!  The entire process probably took only about 15 minutes, but I was a little fumble fingered with all the squeezing of the butter in the cheesecloth, so it may take you less time.

Looks like a lot of instruction, but it's not, honestly.  Whip the cream, strain the buttermilk out, rinse the lump of butter, add salt at this point if you are going to use it.

With one quart of heavy cream, I had 11 ounces of sweet, creamy butter and 2 cups of buttermilk.  Is it less expensive?  Yeeessssss and no.  A pound of store bought butter is running about $3.59 and that would be the store brand; the national brands are closer to $4.00. I would have to take out a second mortgage on my house to buy the European butter.   The quart of cream probably cost me just under $4.00 and it only gave me 11 ounces of butter.....but I did have 2 cups of buttermilk as a by-product that I didn't have to purchase separately and will now use in other cooking projects.  So, yes, it's worth it to me. 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Cinnamon Biscuit Fans

I've made cinnamon biscuits for you before, but I was intrigued with the fan presentation of these.  Who can resist the sweet layers of cinnamon and sugar in these pretty breakfast  fan biscuits?  These look fussy to make but are easy peasy, lemon squeezy to make.  A knife, a ruler, and a muffin tin, a bowl, and you are nearly there! Let me show you how.

Cinnamon Biscuits Fans

Makes 8 Biscuits

For the Biscuits
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter, cold (equal to 16 teaspoons, or 5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon)
3/4 cup milk

For the Filling
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the Glaze
1/2 cup powdered sugar (confectioners' sugar)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 to 3 teaspoons milk (or amount required to drizzle)

Preheat oven to 425*F. Grease 8 regular sized muffin cups. 

In a large bowl, mix the flour, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, baking powder and salt.  Cut in the firm butter using a pastry blender (or pulling 2 table knives through the ingredients in opposite directions), until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.  Stir in just enough milk so the dough leaves the side of the bowl and forms a ball. 

The the dough onto a lightly flowered surface.  Knead lightly 10 times.

On a lightfly floured surface, roll dough into 12 x 10 inch rectangle.

Spread 3 tablespoons butter over rectangle.  Mix 3 tablespoons granulated sugar and the cinnamon and sprinkle over the rectangle.

With the long side of the rectangle facing you, cut crosswise into six 10" x 2" strips.  

Stacks strips.  Cut strips crosswise into eight pieces.

I cut in half, lay the two stacks of strips in front of me, cut stacks in half again, cut in half again. 

Place cut sides up in muffin cups.

Bake 15-18 minutes or until golden brown.  Immediately remove from muffin cups to cooling rack.

In medium bowl combine all the glaze ingredients and stir until smooth and thin enough to drizzle.  Place the cooling rack over a large plate lor cookie sheet to catch any dripping glaze (I just rested my cooling rack on  my muffin tin ~ no point in dirtying up another dish.).  Drizzle glaze over warm biscuits.  Serve warm.

I hope you enjoy these.  These are quite sweet, but go down a treat!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Individual Baked Omelet

One of Ole Sweetie-Pi's favorite breakfasts is omelets.  The one breakfast I least like to make is omelets.  I can never get them to look beautiful.   Frankly, by the time I get done with it, it's a scrambled egg mess.  All the ingredients are there, it's just kind of unattractive, smiles. Sweetie-Pi is aware he is not to comment on presentation; he just dolefully eats what he asked for.

I received an e-newsletter from Allrecipes for Baked Omelet, and I had to immediately investigate. After reading how simple it was, I wasted no time and set out to make our Sunday breakfast.

This recipe is so easy.  You can add just about any ingredient to the basic egg and milk mixture to personalize your omelet. For us, this is a good way to use those tiny bits of vegetables and meat from other cooking projects. I am loathe to waste food, and this offers an opportunity to use them in a new and delicious format.

The original recipe calls for 8 eggs and  to be baked in an 8" x 8" casserole dish, way to much for us, so I eyeballed ingredient amounts for two, and  used my over-sized muffin tins to make individual omelets.  Sweetie-Pi gave his hearty approval.

Individual Baked Omelet for Two

Preheat oven to 350*F.  Generously grease whatever type of casserole or baking dish you are going to use. As I mentioned, I used over-sized muffin tins and sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.**

In my four cup mixing cup, I added and then mixed together:

3 eggs
a splash of milk
a small handful of pizza cheese mix
1/4 onion, finely diced
1/4 green pepper, finely diced
3 slices of cooked ham, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon baking powder**

I poured the mixture into the individual cups, about half full. Bake at 350*F for about 30 minutes or until nice and puffy and golden brown.  Run a thin-bladed knife around the edge of the muffin cups and use a small spatula to scoop them out.  One of these was more than enough for us, as the cheese seems to make this rich.

**There is one caveat to use the muffin tin ~ the omelet was a bit of a stinker to get out, even though I generously sprayed the cups.  And of course, that left me with an crusty, eggy muffin tin to clean.  I would still make this again; I think the presentation is worth the effort.

The original recipe does not call for baking powder; it is an addition that I've seen with other omelet recipes and is an ingredient I chose to add here.  The baking powder helps to make the eggs fluffier and gives a nice height.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Blueberry Crumb Bars

I've been chuckling off and on all week at the comments and emails I've received after my last post of Perfection Salad.  Most agreed they could live without salad in a gelatin mold, and that's okay; I still love it.

Here's a recipe that's probably a little more universally appealing.  This  recipe that is pretty darned simple to make and the results are greater than the effort expended.  Ole Sweetie-Pi loved this for breakfast, remarked several times how good it was, and he's one not to emote over how much he liked what he ate.  I shared several pieces with my next door neighbors and they ate for dessert, reported back to Ole Sweetie-Pi that it was declared delicious.  No matter when you eat indulge, this is good!

I was perusing the King Arthur Flour's Baking Circle, and a member had posted this recipe. The poster attributed the recipe to Smitten Kitchen, who had adapted it  from one she discovered on Allrecipes.  The recipe on the KAF forum had a slight change (no egg was used), and that's the recipe I went with.  The crust is similar to a shortbread cookie, and works well here.

Blueberry Crumb Bars
(King Arthur Flour Forum)

For the crust topping:
1 cup of white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt (a good pinch)
Zest of one lemon
1 cup of cold butter

For the filling:
4 cups (2 pints) fresh or frozen blueberries
1/3 cup sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch
Juice of one lemon

Preheat oven to 375*F.  Have ready an ungreased 9 inch x 13 inch pan. (There's enough butter in the crust to preclude the need of having to butter the pan.)

Rinse the berries, pick out anything that looks undesirable, such as stems or berries that look too smushed.

Combine the dry ingredients.  Cut the butter in using two knives in a criss-cross cutting motion, or a pastry blender, or freeze it first and grate it in.** Mix until the mixture is crumbly.  Pat half the mixture into the pan and reserve the remaining half for the crumb topping.

To make the filling, combine the dry ingredients with the blueberries.  Sprinkle the lemon juice over the berries and gently stir.  Pour the berries over the crust in an even layer.

Sprinkle the remaining crust topping over the blueberries.  Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.  Cut into squares when cool.  Refrigerate unused portion.
Still very good the next day.

**My Notes:  Depending on how tactile you are, using your impeccably clean hands, first dice the cold butter and add to the dry ingredients.  Rub the butter into the flour mixture with your fingers.  The flour will start to look raggedy, and once that happens, grab a wee handful and gently squeeze it; if it holds together, stop, and go on with the rest of the recipe.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Perfection Salad

What do you think of gelatin molds?  Are they something better left to our cooking past or should they be brought to today's table?  Did you know that one version or another of Perfection Salad has been around for almost 80 years?  From what I read, the good folks at Knox and the good folks at Jello had a bit of a competition going on for their gelatin products, and in all fairness some pretty forgettable gelatin molds were created.  But Perfection Salad is one that should be remembered.  Fairly low calorie, veggie good, with a little creamy tartness from the mayonnaise.  It reminds me of a cole slaw in a way, just in a gelatin mold.  And I love the colors; it adds a little sparkle and shimmer to the plate.

I brought this to a family outing a while back, knowing full well the Sweetie-Pi's grandsons wouldn't go near this gelatin if their life depended on it (and I was right), I wasn't too sure about his young adult daughters (there were good sports and ate polite nibbles, smiles), but I figured we "older" folks would certainly reminensce and enjoy this old fashioned Perfection Salad. 

As it turned out, I was the only one who liked this, and I liked this a lot.  Sweetie-Pi's sister, Susan, was honest and said she didn't like this even when their mother made it, and that's fine. I'm sure, without my mentioning it, you know that Sweetie-Pi couldn't even look at it (even though green is his favorite color!).  I brought most of the salad back home, and yes, I polished it off all by myself. At the next to the last minute, as I was about to eat the last slice, I decided to throw it on a bed of lettuce and photograph it, just in case I decided to post it. Hence, it's not beautiful, but I can assure you its lack of aesthetics didn't stop me from enjoying it to the laste bite.

I may as well tell you, if you come to my house and we're having a ladies' luncheon, I want to make this for you.  I'll try not to go too Donna Reed with the pearl necklace, high heeled pumps, and shirt waist dress, but you never know.  This recipe is an inspiration.

Perfection Salad

2 tablespoons unflavored powdered gelatin, softened in 1⁄2 cup cold water

1⁄2 cup sugar
1⁄3 cup rice vinegar
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon. kosher salt
2 cups chopped celery
1 cup finely shredded cabbage
2 jarred pimentos, minced
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and minced

Canola oil, for greasing

In a  custard cup or other similar small bowl, soften the gelatin in the water.

Add the sugar, rice vinegar, lemon juice, salt and softened gelatin to a small sauce pan.  Heat over medium heat until the gelatin dissolves.  Remove from heat and chill for 30 minutes (gelatin will be thick, but not thoroughly set).  Stir in remaining prepared vegetables.

Grease a 12" x 4 1/2" x 2" pan (or use individual custard cups, etc.) and transfer gelatin mix to the mold.  Chill until set, about 6 hours.

When it comes time to unmold the salad, take a thin-bladed knife and gently slide it along the edge of the mold.  Set the mold in a pan of hot water for about 5 seconds.  Remove from pan from the water and turn the mold onto the serving plate. 

Served 1, but really is intended to serve 12
**My Notes:  I used an 8" x 5" bread loaf pan and it worked fine.  I would love to make this salad in individual custard cups just because the presentation would be prettier.  I rarely have success unmolding gelatin, so I would hesitate to use a mold that is too intricate.  Even  using the loaf pan, the first attempt at unmolding was unsuccessful.  I returned the pan to the hot water for another five seconds, and it was a tad too long because the unmolded gelatin had started to melt.  I put everything in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or so and it set up fine.