Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lemon Curd Muffins

The price of lemons is quite dear in our local grocery stores (over $1 each) so I wanted a recipe that would showcase its tart citrus flavor and use both the juice and the zest.  I like lots of lemon flavor.  Boy, oh, boy, does this muffin deliver!  From the lemony fragrance while it baked to the first bite, it is pure lemon.  It has an aroma that keeps you hanging around the kitchen and once baked, going back to the cake plate to have "just one more little taste."

I don't keep lemon curd stocked in the pantry (and truthfully had never tried it until very recently when I made Danish pastries at a friend's house and she had some in her fridge) because the word curd just turned me off.  What an unpleasant sounding word for something delicious.  But a rose by any other name...  I made my lemon curd using a recommended Ina Garten recipe.  It may be on the sweet side for some, but we liked it. 

Lemon Curd Muffins
(Discovered on:  Circle B Kitchen)

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup plain yogurt (I used sour cream)
1/2 cup whole milk
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and then allowed to slightly cool
1 cup lemon curd, divided

Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Line a 12 muffin cups with paper liners.**

In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. (Do not skip this step.)

In a pitcher or bowl with lip, mix the egg, yogurt (sour cream) milk and butter together.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet mixture into the center.  Mix lightly and only until the ingredients are combined (about 25 strokes!)

Add 2/3 of the curd in 6 or 7 dollops and quickly "marble" it through the batter; a couple of good stirs should do it.

Fill the muffin cups 3/4 full.  Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown.  Transfer to a wire rack to slightly cool as these are best eaten on the same day, while slightly warm. 

Top with another dollop of curd before serving.  Personally, I cut a small conical divot out of the center of the muffins, saving the divots as a cook's treat, smiles, and filled the divot with the curd. 

Makes about 12 muffins

Ina Garten's Lemon Curd

3/4 cups sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
2 eggs
1/4 cup lemon juice
pinch of salt

Zest the lemon into the sugar and mix well, set aside.
In a separate bowl, cream the butter and beat in the sugar and lemon mixture. Add the eggs, one at a time, and then add the lemon juice and salt. Mix until combined. 
Pour the mixture into a 2 quart saucepan and cook over low heat until thickened (about 10 minutes), stirring constantly. The lemon curd will thicken at about 170 degrees F, or just below simmer. Remove from the heat and cool or refrigerate.

MY NOTES:  I had enough batter to make 13 muffins.  The recipe called for plain yogurt, but all I had was sour cream so that's what I used, and it worked fine, and in the future that's what I'll probably use as that's what I usually have on hand.

Way back in the Dark Ages when I took Home Ec, Mrs. Haus, my Home Ec teacher was the one who said to stir muffin batter only 25 times.  I have a large stirring spoon that I recently bought, a 25-stir seemed adequate.  The point is, stir until barely combined.  You may have a few bits of flour that are not mixed it but it should be okay.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Last-Minute Chocolate Cake with Mocha Frosting

So you've been craving chocolate cake or company's coming and you need something delicious and fast.  You look in your pantry/  No eggs!  No baking powder!  No salt!  But you still want chocolate cake.  Yikes!  Now what do you do?

You absolutely must try this recipe!  I don't think I've ever had a moister or more delicious chocolate cake that was as easy as this to put together.  Talk about easy peasy-lemon squeezy.  Simple pantry items and you are on your way to  a nice square of chocolate cake heaven.

This makes a smallish 8" x 8" cake, which is a good size for me and Ole Sweetie-Pi.  There's no baking powder in it, so it does not rise to the top of the pan, probably about halfway as you can see.  The big bold chocolate flavor more than makes up for its diminutive size.

Last Minute Chocolate Cake
(From the Red Hat Society Cookbook)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
3 (rounded) tablespoons cocoa**
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter melted
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350*F.  Generously grease and flour an 8" x 8" baking pan and set aside.

In a large bowl sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa and baking soda.  Beat in the melted butter, milk, water, and vanilla. Pour into cake pan. 

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool completely and frost.

Mocha Frosting
(From the Red Hat Society Cookbook)
1 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee**
1/2 cup cocoa
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners' sugar, or more if needed

Mix the coffee, cocoa and water together in a medium bowl to make a paste.  Add the softened butter, vanilla and confectioners' sugar to make a spreadable consistency.  Spread the frosting over the cake.

Can't you almost taste this!

**MY NOTES:  The original cake recipe just simply calls for 3 tablespoons of cocoa.  I thought it didn't sound like enough and "rounded" the measuring.  In in the end I probably added 3 tablespoons with an extra teaspoon of cocoa (rounded measurements are different than heaping, but you know that, right?).

**The mocha frosting recipe called for 1 tablespoon instant coffee.  Gosh, that's a lot. I reduced the measuring to 1 1/2 teaspoons, and there was just enough hint of coffee flavor that greatly enhanced the chocolate flavor without overpowering it.  I would suggest starting with the smaller amount, sampling it, and adding more if you want a more assertive coffee flavor.  It's certainly easier to add than it is to take away.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Baked Stuffed Pork Chops and Gravy

If you love good down-home cookin' I can virtually guarantee that you'll love this recipe.  Oh my stars, this was good!  Meat was fall apart tender and the thick country gravy was flavored from cooking with the pork.  It could easily become your signature dish, your Sunday dinner, or special occasion dish . You'll need a  hearty appetite  and a bit of time for this one.

Get ready to mess up some dishes, smiles. It'll be worth it!  This was enthusiastically approved by Ole Sweetie-Pi.

If you're going to try this, take a minute to read through the recipe as there are a number of steps, and some of the ingredients are divided.

Baked Stuffed Pork Chops with Gravy

For the stuffing
3/4 cup soft bread crumbs
2 tablespoons minced onion
1 tablespoon minced celery
pinch of dried sage (or a good pinch of Bell's Poultry Seasoning)
Salt and pepper to taste
2-3 tablespoons chicken broth

4 thick pork chops (about  1 1/2 inch thick)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon yellow mustard

1 egg lightly beaten
2 1/4 cups milk, divided
1/4 - 1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups water

Preheat the oven to 325*F.

For the stuffing:  Mix the bread crumbs, onion, celery, sage (or Bell's Seasoning), salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Add only enough chicken broth to make the mixture moist, but not wet. 

Cut a slit into the fatty side of each chop to form a pocket. Evenly divide the stuffing between each chop and stuff the pockets with the bread mixture.

In a shallow dish, like a pie dish, mix 1 cup of  flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

In a second dish, make an egg wash by stirring together the egg, mustard, and 3/4 cup of the milk.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Dip each chop in the egg wash and then coat completely in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess.  Place the chops in the skillet and cook, turning once, for 2 minutes on each side or until browned.  Transfer the chops to paper towels to drain, and then place them in a large, shallow baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil.

Pour all but 4 tablespoons of the drippings out of the skillet, leaving any browned bits on the bottom.  Return the pan to medium heat and scrape up the browned bits with a spatula.  Whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup flour and 1 teaspoon of salt and cook, whisking constantly for 2 minutes until browned and smooth.  Remove the skillet from the heat and gradually whisk in the remaining 1 1/2 cups milk and the water.  Return the skillet to medium-low heat and simmer, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes.  Mixture should be well blended but will not be thickened as it will thicken during baking.

Pour the gravy over the chops, recover the dish with foil, and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the foil and bake uncovered for another 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown.  Arrange the meat on plates with the gravy poured over.

MY NOTES:  LOL, I've made gravy a hundred times over the years and have never had a problem with lumps.  Can't say that this time; it was lump city.  I ended up removing the chops from the baking dish, scooping the gravy (lumps) into a sieve and forcing them through the sieve a couple of times. adding a bit of milk and rewhisking again.  It wasn't beautiful but it was delicious

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Breakfast Pockets

I love the weekends and not solely because it's a day I don't have to be at work.  Weekends are a time when I can sit and enjoy breakfast.  I can dawdle and sip my coffee (extra light with two sugars, thank you very much), watch our three cats frolic, and eat something perhaps a little naughty and delicious.

This breakfast sandwich was delicious and filling.  You can put just about anything you want in it, keeping in mind that you have to leave room enough for the cover without squishing your filling out the sides.

Have favorite omelet ingredients?  It would be terrific in this sandwich!  I've made this pastry crust once before for you (found here) and it's a favorite that I've used many times.  The original recipe for this breakfast sandwich called for premade biscuits that come in the cardboard tube, which is a terrific shortcut.  I just prefer the flakiness of this recipe and the fact that, to me, it tastes less salty.

The recipe I used makes quite a bit of filling and I ended up making another recipe of pastry to use up all the filling.  Fine by me, as this reportedly freezes and reheats well. We have enough for several more breakfasts, so we won't have to wait for the weekend to enjoy this delicious breakfast sandwich.

Breakfast Pockets

Combine in a medium bowl and set aside:
   6 ounces cream cheese, softened
   1 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
   couple of good pinches of black pepper
   2/3 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

In a fry pan put
   2 tablespoons butter
   5 large eggs, plus one egg yolk (save the white for glazing the pastry)

one slice deli ham for each sandwich (or roughly chop and put in with the eggs)

One or two recipes of pastry crust (link above) or
1  (16.3 oz) can refrigerated biscuits flattened and each biscuit spread into a 5-inch circle

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat and add the eggs and yolk.  Cook, without stirring, until eggs begin to set on the bottom.  Draw a spatula across bottom of skillet to form large curds.  Continue cooking until eggs are slightly thickened but still moist.  Remove from heat and let cool.

Spread the cheese mixture over the dough, leaving a border around the edges.  Add a couple of spoonfuls of eggs and ham. If you're using the prepared biscuits, fold dough over in half, pinching ends together.  If using the pastry crust, roll the top out a little larger than the bottom crust (to allow for stretching over the filling), and pinch together.  Use fork tines to press  and seal edges together.  Use a sharp knife to clean up the edges.  (I also put a vent hole in the pastry crust to allow any steam to escape.)

Mix the remaining egg white with a teaspoon of water and using a pastry brush, brush the egg white over the pastry.  Bake in 375*F oven for about 15 minutes or until a beautiful golden brown. 

MY NOTES:  If you decide to add vegetables to this, I would precook them; otherwise I think they may not be cooked enough.

This would have been fantastic with bacon, cooked and crumbled.  Maybe some green pepper.  Or sliced cheese instead of the shredded Cheddar.  I think whatever you choose to use, it would be delicious!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Amish Raisin Cookies

Moist, sweet, chewy, raisin-y goodness.  Oh my, these cookies were down a storm here. Even Ole Sweetie-Pi couldn't stay out of the cookie jar for these.  The cooked batter tastes like a chocolate chip cookie (due to all the brown sugar and butter, I suppose, smiles), and at first glimpse one could mistaken this cookie for a chocolate chip cookie, but the raisins bring a sweetness and a texture all their own.  Made with pantry staples, this is a recipe I will make often.

Amish Raisin Cookies
(found here:

1 cup raisins
1 cup water

3/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
pinch of salt

In a medium sized pan, combine the water and the raisins.  Bring to a boil and cook until the water is reduced to one-half cup.  Remove from heat and set pan aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the softened butter and brown sugar and cream until light and fluffy.  Beat in egg and vanilla.  Sift together remaining dry ingredients and add to butter mixture and gradually add to creamed ingredients, blending well.  Add the raisins with the liquid and stir to combine.

Drop by tablespoonfuls on ungreased cookie sheet, two inches apart.  Bake at 375*F for 10-12 minutes or until a beautiful golden brown.  Let rest on pan a couple of minutes before moving to wire racks to finish cooling.

MY NOTES:  For the first time ever, I used a baker's mat, and I found the cooking time was shortened to more like 8 or 9 minutes.  The cookie is pretty soft when it first comes out of the oven.

My raisins cooled only for the time it took to put the batter together.  I stirred them a couple of times in between putting the batter together, but otherwise the raisin-water mixture was still warm when I added it to the cookie dough.  If you're a purist, you could put the warm pan in a dish of cold water to cool it down completely or put it in the fridge. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012


I have a dear, sweet family member, Liz, Ole Sweetie-Pi's youngest daughter, who is allergic to all kinds of foods:  wheat, dairy, soy, corn, white potatoes, beef, peanuts, almonds, some fruits...poor thing. And doggone, doesn't corn syrup show up in a ton of  processed food, same with gluten in its many disguises.  I don't know what's left.  Rice, beans, fish, some vegetables, some fruits,  sweet potatoes.   When it's time for family gatherings it's a challenge to find food that is delicious as well as belly friendly.

I remember my mother making sushi when my brothers and I were children.  She had the sushi mat and she'd have rolls made in no time.  And boy, did I love them.  Hers were very simple, just nori,  sushi rice, deli ham and sliced gherkin pickle.  We'd eat them as fast as she could make them.  When I went to make my own sushi, I was concerned about rolling the sushi, but there's absolutely nothing to it.  If you've ever rolled dough for cinnamon rolls, made a jelly roll, or even rolled your own cigarettes (okay, just looking and seeing if you're paying attention with that last one), you shouldn't have any kind of trouble.  You don't even need a sushi mat ~ a plain white linen dish cloth covered with a piece of plastic wrap will serve you better than good.

I have to smile.  Sushi is an acquired taste; it's the idea of dried seaweed that throws off a lot of people and the fear that the sushi has raw fish in it.  Let's just say that at Ole Sweetie-Pi's family gathering, this was not a huge hit, even the sushi that did not have the salmon in it, with only three of us trying various selections.

The recipe I'm going to share with you is for the sushi rice only, but for the "stuffing" you can put together any combination of ingredients you think would be delicious and complement the sushi rice.  Try not to overstuff because you need to roll the the nori/sushi rice/filling.  I made three different flavors:  diced avocado and shrimp; sliced deli ham and gherkin pickles; smoked salmon and sliced, peeled English cucumbers.  Because I had a ton of the cucumber and salmon left over, I sliced the cucumbers into discs, put on a dollop of herbed pub cheese  and topped with a couple pieces of smoked salmon.  Served on a tray, it made a tempting, delicious presentation, I think.

Sushi Rice
(found here:

2 1/4 cups uncooked sushi rice (not long-grained rice!)**
3 cups water

1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 1/4  teaspoon salt

Place rice into a large, deep bowl. Fill with cold water and rub rice together with hands until the water turns milky white. Pour off the cloudy water, being careful not to pour out the rice. Repeat 3 or 4 times until you can see the rice through 3-inches of water.

Drain the rice in a fine strainer, then place into a saucepan with the 3 cups of water. Allow to stand for 30 minutes. Cover; bring rice to a boil over high heat; then reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to stand for 5 minutes.

In the meantime, while the rice is cooking, stir together rice vinegar, sugar, and salt until dissolved in a small bowl, set aside.

Scrape rice into a bowl. Stir in vinegar mixture until well incorporated and no lumps of rice remain. Allow to cool at room temperature.

MY NOTES:  Lay out your impeccably clean white linen (not terrycloth!) dish towel.  Lay a piece of plastic wrap over that.  Open up your package of nori and lay the nori on the plastic wrap.  The nori is a small square and fragile.  Using wet fingers, spread about 3/4 cup of the sushi rice evenly over the nori square, leaving no bare spots, going to three edges, leaving about a half an inch or so at the far end without any rice. 
The rice is pretty sticky, so you'll probably want a clean bowl of water and towel to rise off your fingers as you work.

At the end closest to you, lay out what you want your filling to be.  Small slender slices work best and make the most attractive presentation as well the easiest to eat and enjoy.  At this same end, gently begin to roll, using the plastic sheet to raise and roll the nori/rice over and then under the filling.  Tug the plastic out from underneath the nori roll if it's caught underneath and raise the plastic sheet again, rolling the nori over, using the plastic sheet to help you form the roll, gently using your fingers pressing and forming,  keeping everything together.  It's not difficult, you can do it!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Strawberry Preserves

I've been dabbling in teaching myself how to "put up" and so far I've had some success.  I've made apple sauce, stewed tomatoes, apple butter, and now this absolutely positively fabulous strawberry jam.  Even with off season strawberries this jam is good!  As the strawberries were simmering, the house smelled of the sweet fragrance of strawberries, a wonderful aroma in the dark days of February.

Ole Sweetie-Pi bought me a couple of cookbooks (An early Valentine's present?  A just-because present?  It doesn't matter, he saw a cookbook I had been admiring, Mrs. Rowe's Restaurant Cookbook, and he bought it for me).  Like most cookbook lovers, I immediately saw down and started reading it like a novel and found several things I wanted to make.  My mouth was watering as I fingered the pages and read the anecdotes that went with the recipes. 

I was actually looking for perhaps a strawberry cake or a strawberry tart recipe (I had purchased two quarts of strawberries for another reason that did not come to fruition, smiles) and needed to find a way to use them.  And there it was, strawberry jam.  Now, the first time I tried strawberry jam was years ago, and it came out like strawberry sauce, telling me I didn't cook it long enough or hard enough.  It was delicious, but it was not jam.  Ate a lot of ice cream with strawberry sauce that year as I recall, with plenty to share with friends. 

Time to put on my big girl pants and try it again, I decided.  I am not by any stretch of the imagination an expert at canning.  There's lots of helpful information at the Ball Canning site to get you started; they have been the trusted source in my family for decades but the USDA also has some invaluable information if you care to google it, so I am not going to bore you here with how to sterilize the jars and all that.  This jam is so simple you'll wonder why you never tried it before.  I know this is one that I will many times.

Strawberry Jam
(Mrs. Rowe's Restaurant Cookbook)

8 cups strawberries, cleaned, hulled, crushed
8 cups (4 pounds) sugar
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a large soup pot (or similar large pot, keeping in mind that you'll need to have room enough for the syrup to bubble and boil) aalternate layers of strawberries with layers of sugar.  (I put in two cups strawberries, two cups sugar, etc., ending with two cups of sugar).  Let stand in cool place for 5 hours.

Place the pot over medium-high heat and slowly bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves.  Boil rapidly for about 20 minutes, until it reaches the jelling point.  As the preserves thicken, stir frequently to prevent burning and sticking to the pot.  Stir in the lemon juice and boil for 2 minutes longer.  Remove the pot from the heat and skim off any foam.

Ladle the hot preserves into hot, sterilized canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch of head space.  Seal immediately following canning instructions.

**MY NOTES ~ As I mentioned, I think the mistake I made in the past (and this time too until I corrected it because it wasn't gelling) was that I was not cooking the preserves at a rapid boil.  A rapid boil means that there will be large bubbles rising, rolling, and popping on the surface.  I can attest from experience that a simmer will not gel your preserves.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Oatmeal Scotchies in a Pan

If ever there was a cookie that screamed for milk, it is this wonderfully delicious butterscotch oatmeal cookie.  I'll wager we drank close to a quart of milk as we enjoyed every last morsel of this easy bar cookie.

Ole Sweetie-Pi loved this cookie so much he was eating them the next day for breakfast (and I confess so did I).  After all, it does have oatmeal in them as a main ingredient, so how bad can it really be? 

Oatmeal Scotchies in a Pan
(found on:

Preheat oven to 350*F.  Lightly grease a 9" x 13" baking pan.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
2 cups butterscotch chips, divided

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt; whisk together.  Add the rolled oats and 1 1/2 cups of butterscotch chips and stir to blend.

In a large bowl, mash the butter, white sugar and brown sugar until smooth and creamy.  Beat in the eggs to make a creamy mixture. 

Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture, beating well to combine.

Press the dough into the prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/2 cup of butterscotch chips.

Put pan  in preheated oven and bake about 30 to 35 minutes or until the top is a golden brown.  Allow to cool before cutting into bars and serving.

Cookies are very sweet and rich. Cut into small squares, approximately 24.