Saturday, November 29, 2014

Lemon Meringue Pie

It is Thanksgiving Eve, and as I began making my pies, I realized that I couldn't find my staple lemon meringue pie recipe, (my all time favorite to rhubarb) and that it wasn't on my blog.
So I frantically went to my cookbook cupboard and looked through everything -without avail.
To my catch all recipe drawer, nada.
Then my sister called and as we chatted, I began leafing through other cookbooks hoping to find something that would work in a pinch.  Finally, out of the corner of my eye, I spied the hot pink cover, with the black plastic binding roll.  Grandma H's cookbook.  Under my pasta maker and bucket of spools of thread.  Of course!
Grandma had 7 children, who in turn also had very large families, and every Sunday, we'd head to grandma's house for family dinner, and many fond family memories have come from food around grandma's table.  Later in her life, grandma became a caterer.
During the week leading up to Thanksgiving, grandma's garage would begin to fill with pies (a second refrigerator/freezer in the cold mountains). Her meringue tips always crested, and drops of sugar dew taunted me as I anxiously awaited grandma's lemon meringue pie.
My Thanksgiving just isn't complete without this pie

Sift and set aside
1.5 cups sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup flour (sifted)
1/4 tsp salt

2 cups boiling water
3 eggs - separated (save whites for meringue)
1.5 tsp grated lemon zest (rind)
6 Tablespoons lemon juice

Separate eggs and place well beaten yolks into a medium sized saucepan.
Beat in dry mixture of sugar, cornstarch, flour, and salt.
Add lemon juice, lemon zest, and boiling water and cook over medium heat in a medium saucepan, stirring constantly, until it begins to boil and thickens.

Pour into a baked pie shell and allow to cool.

Beat egg whites until stiff, but not dry.
Add 1/4 tsp cream of tartar and slowly add 6 Tablespoons powdered sugar, adding one tablespoon at a time.
Whip thoroughly.

Spread over cooled lemon filling, taking care that meringue seals all of the edges of the crust.
Bake at 325* for 20 minutes.

Cool before serving, and keep refrigerated.

Blueberry Meringue Pie

Our friend Ruthann has MS, and is in a nursing home.  Each Thanksgiving, she requests that we bring her some of this pie, that she remembers from her past.

This year, I experimented a bit, and came up with this no bake version.

4 cups blueberries
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 baked pie crust

Pour 2 cups of blueberries into the bottom of the baked pie crust.

In a medium pan, mix sugar and cornstarch and salt with wire whisk.
Add milk, and heat over medium heat.  Once the mixture is combined, whisk in lemon juice.
Add blueberries and cinnamon.

Cook stirring constantly, until mixture begins to boil and thicken.
Use a bean smasher, potato masher, or bottom of a glass, and smash berries.

Add butter and vanilla.
Pour over blueberries in pie shell and allow to cool.

Top with meringue.

Beat 2-3 egg whites until stiff.  Add 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar and 6 tablespoons of powdered sugar, adding 1 tablespoon at a time.  Whip thoroughly.
Gently spread over blueberry filling, sealing edges.
Bake at 325* for 20 minutes.

Allow to cool prior to serving.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Easiest Ever Garlic and Rosemary Pork Roast

Here it is - the easiest, and amazingly tastiest pork roast ever. 
Make with your slow cooker or crock pot, a pork roast and two other ingredients. 
Fresh rosemary, and fresh garlic. 
6- 8 hours. 
The end. 

Okay - here are the explicit instructions:

1 pork roast - size doesn't really matter.  I actually usually start with a frozen roast, yes, as in a chunk of ice...plunk, it goes into the pot. (I use a meat rack at the bottom of my slow cooker though.)

Spread 4-5 (for a 2.5 lb roast) sprigs or branches of fresh rosemary over the roast.

Peel 4-5 large garlic cloves, crush them (place a wide knife/spatula/cutting board over them, and bring your hand down hard on top to smash them) and place on top of the roast, using the rosemary to keep them in place.

Salt and pepper if desired.

Cook for 6-8 hours, until meat is tender and falls apart.
Easiest Ever...Tasty as can be...And my kids love it.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Multi-Grain Honey Whole Wheat Bread

I love to make whole wheat bread.  I'm a 'grind the wheat to make her bread' kind of gal.
For years, I've relied on my trusty "Fool Proof Whole Wheat Bread" recipe, and haven't been let down.  
As I was making it today though, I thought I'd add a few more ingredients, to make it more of a multi-grain whole wheat bread, and I substituted coconut oil for the olive oil.  I was surprised at how much lighter and softer this came out, and my family might have even loved it a bit more than my standard recipe.  

  This recipe takes 2 hours from start to finish, with 30 active minutes 

5 ½ cups warm water
2 1/4 T. dry yeast
2 T. salt
1 cup oil (olive or coconut)
2/3 cup honey
8 cups whole kernel wheat
3 Tablespoons chia
2 Tablespoons flax seed
3/4 cup oats

Combine 5 ½ cups warm water, yeast, salt, oil, and honey in Bosch or large mixer bowl. Let stand 5 -10 minutes to activate yeast.
While yeast proofs, using a wheat grinder, mill 8 cups whole kernel wheat to yield 12 cups of whole-wheat flour.  (The wheat will be warm, and perfect for the yeast if ground at this point). 

Add 8 cups of whole-wheat flour to mixing bowl. If using a Bosch, use the ‘spring-loaded’ position (turning to the left instead of the right) button the switch first to blend the ingredients, or mix on low speed until well blended.
Add 3 – 4 cups more flour, 1 cup at a time until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl. (The amount of flour required will vary according to the moisture and protein content of the wheat and your atmosphere/altitude etc. The stickier the dough, the moister the bread, but it should clean the sides of the mixing bowl).   Knead dough on low speed for 10 minutes.
Add flax seeds, chia seeds, and oatmeal, and mix thoroughly.

Oil hands and working surface. Remove dough from mixing bowl and with oiled hands, spread into a large rectangle.  Divide into 6 equal portions.  Starting at one end, begin rolling each section, one at a time, into an oblong shape.  Pinch the ends together and turn underneath.  Place in oiled, metal 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 5/8" bread pans (this size seems to work the best, and metal works better than glass).  If desired, oil the top of the loaves for a soft crust.  Cover with a damp cloth, away from drafts, and let rise 1/3 in bulk, or approx. 35 minutes.  

Bake at 425* for 8 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350* for the remainder of the baking period (27 to 32 minutes). Remove from pans when done, and allow to cool on baking racks. Brush tops with butter or oil immediately.  

*Notes:  I specifically use a Bosch mixer with this recipe.  I've tried it with a Kitchenaid mixer, without the same results.  My guess is that it relates to the Bosch's cover retaining the heat perhaps?  

White Bean, Chicken, and Kale Soup

This is a simple white bean and chicken soup with lots of fresh herbs, and kale.  
Perfect for fall.  
Except that I live in Florida and fall doesn't really exist here.  
We compensate though, we still eat soup, and then swim in the pool. 
It's a tough life. 

Did I mention that this soup is picky teenager approved? 

1/2 large onion (chopped)
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4-1/2 cup whole wheat flour (or white)
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups water
Chicken bouillon to taste if desired
1-2 teaspoons salt
4 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
4 large fresh basil leaves, chopped
3 sprigs parsley, chopped
1 small bunch (8 leaves) oregano, chopped
1 medium jalapeno diced (optional)
Black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon cumin
2 cans Great Northern Beans (white) (undrained)
1 can Garbanzo Beans/Chick peas (undrained)
12 stalks curly kale leaves, washed and leaves torn away from stalks (discard stalks)
4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced

Heat coconut oil in saucepan. Once hot, add onions and garlic, (and jalapeno if you feel daring).  Sautee until tender.  Add flour and stir to coat.
Allow to cook for 30 seconds to make a roux, then slowly add broth and stir until roux is dissolved.
Add water, salt, and beans.  Use the bottom of a cup, or potato masher to smash beans slightly - not all of them, perhaps a third.  This will also help to thicken the soup.
Add spices, and diced chicken.
If using a pressure cooker, cook for 15-20 minutes.  If using a regular soup pan, cook for 30-40 minutes until chicken is tender, and everything is well combined.

Add kale, and allow to cook for an additional 5-10 minutes prior to serving.
Salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Herbed Butter, Herbed Garlic Bread, & Herbed Butter Pats

An easy and delicioius twist on garlic bread. 

Use the freshest herbs possible.  Mince herbs, and adjust flavors according to your personal taste preferences.   
Gently mix herbs into room temperature butter. 

Variations: Spread onto a french bread loaf, wrap with foil, and heat for a zesty garlic bread - see below 

May be made ahead as fancy butter pats for rolls and breads, by spooning mixture into a frosting piping bag with a large tip, and piping the butter into pats on a piece of wax or parchment paper, and freezing to sabilize shape.  Keep frozen in a ziplock bag until needed. 

Use butter pats used in pastas, rices, soups etc.       

Fresh Herbed Butter Garlic Bread
Mince and combine the following
1 T. Fresh Parsley
2 T. Fresh Basil
1/2 T. Fresh Rosemary
1/2 T. Fresh Chives
2 Garlic Cloves

Mix into 1 stick of room temperature butter, and season with Kosher salt to taste. 

Slice a loaf of french bread into 1 inch vertical slices, not quite cutting through the bottom crust. Spread herbed butter onto each slice, then wrap bread in foil.  Place in 350* oven for 10-20 minutes - until butter is melted and bread is steaming.  
Serve immediately

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Crispy Tortilla Strips with a Popcorn maker

Last week I made our favorite Chicken Tortilla Soup.  One of our favorite facets of this soup are all of the a la carte toppings that can be added.  Especially the tortilla strips.  Thin, salty, and crunchy mmmm. 

Except that I dislike how long they take to stir, and turn, and stir again, waiting for them to brown. 

And then I saw the pop corn popper on the counter - just begging to be used, and had an epiphany.  
I couldn't believe how easy these were, and the popper took care of everything! 
Note, a "Stir-Crazy" or similar pop corn machine is required for this recipe. 
Tortilla strips - as many as desired, in stacks of 12-15 (corn or flour)
3 Tablespoons Coconut oil, or oil of your choice
coarse salt

Place tortillas in a stack and cut them into 1/2 x 2" strips with a large kitchen knife.  
Turn pop corn popper on, and add oil.  Once oil is heated (seconds), add tortilla strips. Take care not to overfill.  The bottom wire must be able to move the weight of the tortilla strips.  

Note the motion from the blurred parts of the image
Sprinkle with coarse salt, cover with lid and walk away. Check intermittently, and remove when crisped to satisfaction.

Carefully remove with slotted spoon or tongs, and allow grease to drain on a paper towel, over a bowl.  Salt and season to taste. 
Sprinkle over soups or salads

Variation - For a sweet taste, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and serve over ice cream 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Tropical Tapioca Pudding with Guava, Cinnamon, and Vanilla Beans

Today, I boiled guavas in a simple syrup, blended the fruit and syrup in my high powered blender, and strained out the seed granules.  It made an amazing nectar.  While my daughter and I thought about just drinking it right then and there, I felt a little guilty about it (I guess it couldn’t be worse than downing a pitcher of koolaid??) so we set off on a quest to figure out how to use this delightful concoction.

In the end, this recipe turned out to be an aromatic treat that my family found comforting with a tropical flair.  I hope you’ll love it as much as we do. 

Tropical Tapioca with Guava, Cinnamon, and Vanilla Beans
3 cups milk
2/3 cups sugar
6 Tablespoons Minute Tapioca
2 eggs, beaten (or substitute 1 Tablespoon of chia for each egg)
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon vanilla, plus scrape the seeds from 1/2 a vanilla bean.  Add bean pod to tapioca for flavor while cooking, but discard prior to serving)

Mix milk, nectar, sugar, and tapioca and eggs/chia in a medium sized pan.  Add cinnamon stick, vanilla bean seeds, and pod. Cook on medium heat until mixture comes to a full boil, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. 
Cool 20 min. Stir. Remove cinnamon stick and vanilla bean pod.  
Spoon into dessert dishes and serve with a dollop of whipping cream and a vanilla bean sliver, lightly dusted with cinnamon.
Serve warm or chilled. 


Fizzy Guava Refresher, Guava Nectar, and Guava Syrup

While living in Central America, I fell in love with several tropical fruits - one of them, the guava. While delightfully aromatic and sweet, they full of tiny seeds that are as hard as in really, a mouthful of gravel.  Each time I find them at my local asian produce market, I take some home with hopes of figuring out how to really use these for something more than just boiling for the amazing smell.  I won't catalogue my failures, but here are some of our favorite guava successes.    

There's not much that beats the smell of ripe guavas boiling on the stove in a simple syrup with a cinnamon stick. Here's how to make it into something that tastes great too.

Guava Syrup
4-6 ripe guavas
6 cups of boiling water
1.5 cups of sugar
1 cinnamon stick

In a medium sized pan, add sugar, then boiling water.  Stir until combined.  Rinse and trim ends of guavas, then quarter, and add with a cinnamon stick to the sugared water.  Boil for 30-45 minutes until guavas are very soft and the mixture has reduced to a light syrup.

Strain through a tight seive. Discard fruit and cinnamon stick.

Syrup can be used to flavor baked goods, puddings, frostings, ice cream, glazes, salads, etc.
Thicken with 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch and 1/2 teaspoon butter for a pancake/breakfast syrup.

Guava Nectar
Prepare the simple syrup as above, except prior to straining mixture, remove cinnamon stick, and pour fruit, seeds, and syrup into a high speed blender and blend thoroughly.  Strain and discard seed granules with a tight sieve, or a layer of cheese cloth.

Use in smoothies, cakes, puddings, asian cooking bases etc.

Fizzy Guava Refresher
Guava Nectar (above)
Seltzer Water, or Ginger Ale
Mint (optional garnish)

Mix equal parts of the nectar with seltzer water or ginger ale for a fizzy, refreshing tropical drink.  Serve over ice, and garnish with mint.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Smoky Baba Ghanoush

 I first had babaghanoush at a Turkish restaurant, and totally fell in love with it.  
What is it you may ask? 
In a nutshell - roasted eggplant, tahini (a sesame based paste), garlic, lemon juice, salt, parsley, and olive oil.   
 For any of those eggplant haters out there - I'm with you.  My mom made it when I was a kid - hated it.  I tried it several different ways as an adult, and just hated it.  Then I had babbaganoush, and am totally in love - it tastes nothing like eggplant to me this way. 

The babaghanoush gets a smoky flavor from being roasted, as in roasted to a char. 

Lightly spray grill with cooking spray for easy turning. 
Place two medium sized egg plants on the grill (some recipes say poke them, but they fill with steam and cook better without holes).  While they can be roasted on a gas range, or in the oven, a grill really brings out the smoky flavor.  
Grill for 15-20 minutes, and then very carefully turn. Roast an additional 15-20 minutes, until the eggplant is so charred that you are completely sure that it is inedible.  

Remove from grill, wrap in foil and let it steam for 15 minutes.  
Carefully make a lengthwise slit in the eggplant and open.  With a spoon, scrape out all of the flesh from the inside of the eggplant. 

Place flesh into a salad spinner and gently spin to remove excess liquid. 

Place in a bowl, and add three minced garlic cloves, and two Tablespoons of fresh lemon juice.  Mix until it becomes creamy. 

Mix in three Tablespoons of tahini then, while mixing, slowly drizzle 1/4 cup olive oil into mixture.  Continue to mix until it is thoroughly incorporated.  
Stir in 1/4 cup chopped parsely. 
Season with 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of salt (to taste).   

Serve with lavas(h), naan, roti, or pita chips/bread, crackers or veggies. 

Smoky Babaghanoush
2 medium sized egg plants
3 Tablespoons tahini
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
3 minced garlic cloves
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt to taste

Roast egg plant on gas grill for 30-40 minutes, until blackened and charred, turning once.  
Enclose in foil and allow to sit for 15 minutes. 
Carefully scoop out flesh (discard charred bits), and place in a salad spinner, and gently spin to remove excess liquid. 
Place in a medium sized bowl and mix until creamy with lemon juice and garlic. 
Add tahini, and while mixing, slowly drizzle in olive oil.  
Stir in parsley, and add salt to taste. 
Serve with lavas(h), naan, roti, pita chips, veggies, or crackers. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

This recipe comes from my friend Freddy, from an old church cookbook. Perfect for fall, to fill up your home with all fragrant spices.

1 c. softened butter
4 eggs
1.5 c. flour
1/4 t. cinnamon
2 c. sugar
1 c. cooked pumpkin
1.5 t. pumpkin spice
1 t. vanilla

Cream butter and sugar, then beat in eggs, then, pumpkin, and vanilla.
Sift in the flour, and spices, and mix well.

Pour into a greased 9x13 inch pan, and bake at 350* for 30-40 minutes.

Cool before frosting

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 (6 oz.) package of cream cheese
2 t. vanilla
1/2 c. softened butter (1 stick)
1.5 c. powdered sugar.

Blend the room temperature cream cheese with the butter, then add the vanilla and powdered sugar.
Beat well, and spread over brownies.

*Baker's note.  These do not freeze well.    

Friday, August 22, 2014

Rosemary Butternut Squash

Just in time for Fall.  
If you are a Butternut squash and rosemary fan, this is a must try. 
It was amazing tasting, aromatic, and my kids loved it. 

2 butternut squash, peeled, gutted, and cut into 1 inch cubes
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
3 Sprigs of fresh rosemary
Sea Salt to taste

Heat oven to 425*.  Place squash and two sprigs of rosemary in a large mixing bowl, and toss to coat with 1.5 Tablespoons of coconut oil. 
Place uncovered in oven in foil lined baking dish or sheet with edges. 
Bake for 15 minutes, stir, and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes until squash is fork tender. 

Heat remaining coconut oil in a small frying pan, and once hot, add rosemary.  Cook until just before the rosemary begins to crisp.  Pour over cooked squash, salt to taste, and gently toss.  Serve warm. 

Eight Grain Meatless Meatloaf, or Meatless Tex Mex Base

This recipe uses eight grains, and natural ingredients. While it can easily be classified as "vegan" or "vegetarian", it is basically, "grain loaf and black bean burger meet Mexico".
While I originally served this as a tex-mex style meatloaf, I very quickly realized what an amazing non-meat base this can be used for in hispanic cooking (which I love).  A perfect meatless base for tacos, burritos, enchiladas, tostadas, taco get the point.  

One beauty of this recipe is that as there is no raw meat, everything can be adjusted according to taste and preference for flavor, even prior to baking.  Taste as you go! 

1.5 cups cooked black beans (recipe here)
1.5 cups cooked, then blended wheat berries (wheat berry recipe)
1 cup cooked black rice (other rices may be substituted)
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup uncooked oatmeal
2 Tablespoons chia
2 Tablespoons ground flax seed (garnish)
1.5 Tablespoons chili powder
1.5 Tablespoons cumin
4 diced garlic cloves
1/2 medium onion, diced
1.5 cups corn
1 - 1.5 cups broth (vegetable, or any other if not going vegan or vegetarian) or wheat berry juice
1/2 cup salsa or pico de gallo (recipe)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
4 mini peppers diced
2.5 teaspoons key lime juice
Salt and black pepper to taste
JalapeƱos (optional - to taste) 
Sour cream & cheese for garnish (not vegan)

Heat oven to 350* F. 
In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly mix all ingredients except flax seed.  When adding the broth, take care not to add too much.  The mixture should be moist, but still hold its shape.  
Divide mixture and place into two greased/oiled bread loaf pans (9x4 or 5). 
Cover with foil and bake until heated through (approx. 25 minutes) 
Remove foil and allow to cook for an additional 10-15 minutes to allow outside to harden and form a bit of a crust.  

Serve with chopped jalapeƱos, pico de gallo (recipe), salsa, freshly diced onion, sour cream, or cheese etc.  Sprinkle with crushed flax seed (it loses its nutrient value when heated). 

May be served on a bed of lettuce with tortilla chips, fresh tomatoes, olives, pico de gallo, and cheese as a rice and beans component for a taco salad, or used as the 'meat' base for enchiladas, tacos, or spread upon tostada tortillas.  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Jack Fruit: Nuts and Smoothies

Every time I go to the Asian market, we buy something new, and jack fruit was this week's experimental fruit.
Now, the owner of the store said that it is sweeter than pineapple and really yummy.  We bought it last night and left it on the counter overnight.
They sold it cut in half and in retrospect, I realize that it was on the edge of expiration, But I didn't know that when I was buying it.
It wasn't cheap, and we really liked it-the parts that weren't rotten that is.
While it is great in fruit salads and also by itself, we also boiled the nuts for 25 minutes. ( until fork tender) peeled off the outer shell and enjoyed the nuts by themselves.
Since we live in Florida, we decided to try our hand at growing one ourselves- then we can enjoy it green or ripened!
Here's a recipe for a fantastic smoothie using jack fruit.
My kids even liked this one :)

1/2 cup Jack fruit
2 sprigs fresh mint
2 sprigs chocolate mint ( if you can find it)
2 sprigs stevia
1/2 cup creamed coconut (found in the asian market refrigerator)
2 Tablespoons fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon ground
3 fresh figs (kombota if you can find them)
1/4 fresh pineapple cut into chunks
2 cups of ice
1 cup of cold water as needed for desired thickness

Blend and serve immediately
No additional sweetener is necessary if the jack fruit is ripe

Friday, July 25, 2014


This seems to be a week of cakes, with two more still to go!

This one was done as a white and chocolate checkerboard with a german chocolate filling, a ganache crumb coat, frosted with a chocolate buttercream frosting.
I experimented with a fondant trim on the bottom, lined with edible pearls, which I also used for my drop string intersections.
My greatest discovery was that my pasta maker is perfect for rolling out fondant, and my pizza slicer is great for cutting it into the thin strips I needed.
A pasta maker - who knew? 
(said in a Flynn Rider from Disney's "Tangled" in, "Frying pans, who knew?")

This rainbow cake was made for a "Colors" party.  We loved how the cake looked very elegantly done up on the outside, yet was bursting with a party on the inside.  The colored sparkler candles were a hit too.
I used 2 yellow cake mixes (yellow made the colors a little brighter) and scooped 1 & 1/3 cups of batter into small bowls and colored them, then baked them individually - watching them carefully (smaller amounts=less time).

I assembled them with a buttercream frosting, using strawberry jam for filling in between a couple of the layers,to assist the flavor. Little Debbie's strawberry shortcake rolls aren't very tasty to eat, but were fun to border this cake with.

Finally - I've made this cake for the past two years in a row!  A decadent chocolate cake, filled with , coconut and toffee cake.
Thanks to my friend Rose Williams helped me figure this recipe out - she's a very talented chef and food stylist.
This is made as a decadent chocolate cake, with a coconut/toffee filling, crumb coated with a chocolate ganache, and a white chocolate buttercream frosting - decorated with Heath Toffee Bits.  

Toffee and Coconut Filled Chocolate Cake

Chocolate, Toffee and Coconut Filled Cake – with Rose Williams

Thanks to my friend Rose - a great chef and food stylist who helped me come up with this recipe to satisfy a sweet tooth for a birthday!  

I was thrilled to find that Rose's preferred chocolate cake recipe is the same one I use - straight from Hershey.  

Chocolate - Toffee filling:
1 1/3 whipping cream
7 T unsalted butter, diced
2 T. sour cream
2 T vanilla extract
1 1/3 c. English Toffee bits
1 2/3 c. melted milk chocolate chips

Stir cream and butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until butter melts and mixture comes to a boil. 
Remove from heat.
Add melted chocolate chips and whisk until smooth.  Whisk in sour cream and vanilla. Fold in toffee bits.  Let stand at room temperature until cool and slightly thick but still pourable, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.

Coconut filling:
In a medium saucepan, mix 2 cups of dried unsweetened coconut with 1 can sweetened condensed milk, and the same amount of milk.  Bring to a boil, and cook until thickened and reduced.  Allow to cool.

Ganache: Scald 1.5 - 2 cups of Whipping Cream. 
Slowly pour whipping cream over 2 cups of semi sweet chocolate chips and mix to a spreading consistency.  Allow to cool and thicken.  

Italian Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting

Melt 8 oz of milk chocolate, using double boiler.  Set aside to cool. 

In a mixing bowl, add 9 egg whites, and 1.5 cups of sugar.  Place the bowl over a pan with water, and turn the stove on.  Mix the eggs with the whip attachment - mixing until the eggs are warm, but be careful not to cook the eggs.  

Place contents in a mixer and whip at high speed until soft peaks are formed.  Reduce speed, and add 6 tablespoons of room temperature butter, a small bit at a time - allowing it to become incorporated.  
Add the melted milk chocolate.  

If the butter doesn't melt well, place the bowl over the boiling double boiler for a few seconds, then remove and whip again. 

Cut two 9 inch round cakes into 3 layers.
Freeze cake for easier handling.
Pipe each layer (on the inside edge) with ½” seam of chocolate ganache to contain and seal fillings. 

Fill alternating layers with chocolate toffee filling, and coconut filling.  Use thin dowels if necessary to keep cake from sliding.  Freeze.

Apply thin layer of ganache for crumb coat.  Immediately refrigerate. Once set, apply 2nd thicker coat of ganache OR frosting. 
Garnish with coconut or toffee bars/bits.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Rainbow Jello, Layered Jello Jigglers, Jello Ribbons

My friend saw these and said, 'those are the kind of treats you always see and pin, but never actually make'.
These are jigglers, so they are perfect finger food for appetizers, hors d'oeuvres, parties etc. as they hold their shape and don't need utensils.  
Be warned - they take a long time.  Plan between 2.5 - 3 hours.  
I multi tasked cleaning my kitchen, made a batch of cookies for tomorrow's dinner, and listened to a book on tape while I made these, waiting for them to set. 

Because I knew I'd be making many layers - I used my largest pan.  My trusty 10x15 inch cake pan.  Whatever mold you use, it just needs to be able to hold a large volume. (I did see something similar done in a bundtcake pan with frilly edges) 

You can layer the jello colors anyway that you'd like - I followed the ROYGBIV rainbow pattern.  Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo (skipped that one), Violet. 
I originally saw a version of this on the Pioneer Woman, and added the rainbow twist.  

Here's what's needed.  
12 packets of unflavored gelatin
6 small boxes of jello - colors and flavors of your choice
3 cans of sweetened condensed milk
Boiling water (an electric tea kettle is a dream)

Prepare 10x15" pan by lightly spraying with cooking spray, then gently wiping off to remove excess residue.

If you are going in rainbow order, do ROYGBIV backwards so that the violet (purple) will be on the bottom.  Start with grape jello for the first layer.  
Here is the order: Purple, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, Red

Layer #1
In a small bowl,  mix 1 packet of unflavored gelatin with 1/4 cup of water.  
Add 1 cup of boiling water and mix.
Add 1 box of jello.  Gently stir until dissolved. 
Pour into pan, and place in fridge to cool - until set.  Approximately 15 minutes.  

While it cools, make the filling layer. 

Mix 2 unflavored gelatin packets with 1/2 cup cold water in a small bowl. 
Mix one can of sweetened condensed milk with 1 cup boiling water. 
Add gelatin mixture to the milk and water, then add another 1/2 cup of boiling water. 
(Depending on how thick you want your filling, you can use this for two or three layers.  Don't make it all at the same time though, as it may begin to set as it cools on the counter)

One the jello has set, remove from refrigerator, and pour 1/3 to 1/2 of the filling mixture over the first layer. Return to the fridge to cool and set.  

Repeat layering jello and filling as desired.   

Cover with plastic wrap, and place in fridge for several hours or overnight.  

Cut into 1"x 2" cubes, or cookie cutters, and keep refrigerated unless serving.  

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Suckers and Lollies

As a child, we used to make a lot of suckers. They were so good that my sister started selling them to raise money for a summer camp she wanted to attend.
Our favorites were always a toss up between root beer, and cinnamon.

I didn't have my mom's recipe handy, so I searched the web and found numerous recipes which all pretty much looked like this:

2 cup granulated sugar

1 cup water

2 cup corn syrup
food coloring and flavoring

Additional supplies: sucker sticks, molds, candy oils or flavoring extracts.

Place the sugar, corn syrup and water into a heavy bottomed pot and stirring constantly, over medium heat, bring to a boil.  (Coat measuring cup with cooking spray for easier pouring if desired).

Once the mixture begins to boil, place a candy thermometer in pan, and cook without stirring until it reaches the hard crack stage or 310* F.  

Add the flavoring and stir quickly, then pour into prepared molds, onto a Silpat or parchment paper (lightly sprayed with cooking oil), or a granite or marble countertop (which I'd never tried before, but was a dream). 

Quickly, before it can cool, place a sucker stick into each sucker, and twist the stick to coat (the buddy system is great here).  

Allow to cool, for approximately 10-20 minutes.  

Wrap each individual sucker in plastic wrap.  When prying off counters/pans/molds, be careful not to pull from the stick as it will break the sucker.  

Friday, April 25, 2014

Kale and Quinoa Asian Style Soup

Here's my twist on an Asian style soup I tried yesterday. I loved the use of kale and quinoa, and especially my kid's reactions - they LOVED it (and they don't like kale or quinoa)! Even my pickiest had seconds, and asked that I make it again, and my youngest requested this broth next time she is sick. 
This soup was incredibly filling.  Halfway through the bowl we were all surprisingly full.   
The original recipe called for tofu - yet, no matter how it is served, I just can't love tofu (or eggplant, but that's another story).  As such, I've adapted this recipe to fit my family's tastes - and it definitely isn't vegetarian.  Healthy, filling, simple. Family friendly. Check!

1.5 c. cubed or shredded cooked chicken 
1 T. olive oil
1 large onion - chopped
4 carrots - chopped
4 large garlic cloves - minced
1 T. turmeric (I used fresh, and grated it - careful, it stains)
1/4 c. dried mushrooms, broken into bite size pieces (optional)
1/2 c. dry quinoa
2 c. chicken broth or vegetable broth
4 c. boiling water
(OR 1 quart boiling water, and 3 T. Knorr chicken soup bouillon instead of the broth and water
1 bunch kale, leaves only, chopped)
2.5 T. miso
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 chopped scallions - green and white
Chopped avocado - optional 

Heat olive oil in heavy bottomed sauce pan.  Add carrots and onion, and saute until tender.  Add garlic and turmeric and stir to combine, then add quinoa and bouillon (if using), and mushrooms, and cook for three minutes, stirring constantly.  Add chicken, and boiling water, and cover with a lid and allow to cook on medium heat for 15 minutes.  Stir occasionally.

Add kale.  Cook until tender - approximately 3 minutes, then remove from heat and mix in miso.  Mix well so that miso disolves properly. 

Garnish with red peppers, avocado, and scallions and serve immediately.    


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Strawberry Lemonade Cake, OR Pink and White Checkerboard Cake with Lemon Curd Filling

This cake is made using strawberry and white or  lemon cake mixes, and is filled with lemon curd, with buttercream frosting.  Checkerboard cakes are very simple to make, and I love to hear the gasps when the cake is sliced and served.   

1 Box Strawberry Cake mix
1 Box White or Lemon Cake mix

Prepare and bake cakes as directed, using two 9 inch rounds for each mix. Remove cakes from pans, and allow to cool.  Wrap with plastic wrap, and freeze for 1-3 hours for easier handling. 
Use household items to cut cocentric rings in each cake (ie the lid to a sour cream carton, 
a small bowl for the next ring, and a tablespoon turned upside down for the final inner ring).  
Carefully take each layer apart and re-assemble cake rounds, alternating rings. 
Layer rounds, and fill each layer with lemon curd.  Crumb coat with curd and freeze prior to decorating if desired. 
 I used Ina Garten's Lemon Curd recipe - as follows: 
3 lemons
1.5 c. sugar
1 stick butter - room temperature
4 large eggs
1/2 c. lemon juice (3-4 lemons)
1/8 t. kosher salt

Using a carrot peeler, remove the zest of 3 lemons, avoid the white pith. Place in a food processor, along with sugar, and pulse until the zest is very finely minced into the sugar. 
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 saucepan and cook over low heat until thickened (about 10 minutes), stirring constantly. The lemon curd will thicken just below a simmer.  Remove from heat and cool or refrigerate.
Frost and decorate with Decorator's Buttercream Frosting

1/2 c. vegetable shortening
1/2 c. butter (1 stick)
4 c. powdered (confectioner's) sugar
2 T. milk
1 t. vanilla
Assorted food colors

Cream shortening and butter together.  Mix in vanilla.  Slowly add in powdered sugar, then add milk or additional powdered sugar as needed. Mix colors as needed. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fools - Repost

Since it has been 4  years since I originally posted this - I'm reposting - since it is a much loved tradition in our that our kids talk about, and wait for all year long. 

Here's our traditional April Fool's Day dinner.
Much to my children's delight, our "spaghetti and meatballs" are the main entree, and our "cupcakes" are our dinner entree.

Our spaghetti is made from a slice of cake (anything BUT angel food cake will do) centered on a plate, then covered with small strands of frosting piped from a frosting bag (or a very stiff sweetened whipping cream if angel food cake is used). The entire concoction is then covered with a sauce made of blended fresh strawberries and a touch of sugar.
Our meatballs are 'chocolate no bake cookies' - rolled into balls before they completely cool.

For Dessert, I use the meatloaf recipe from Feet of Meat for our 'cupcakes' and cook it in muffin tins, and frost the (meatloaf) cupcakes with mashed potatoes, and sprinkle with chives. 

 Once a year folks!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Double cut cookies - how to get perfectly uniform sugar cookies

Sometimes I'm a day late and a dollar short. 
This particular day turned into two days, but everyone is still sleeping, so I'm safe for a few more hours.  

Add caption
I was up late, making cookies for neighbors and friends for Valentine's Day tonight, and I crossed into the next day.
Why am I blogging this at 1:00 am?
Because I had a sugar cookie epiphany.  I finally had a few free moments of quiet to myself and was amazed what my mind came up with - several epiphanies, but only one regarding cookies.
So here it is:
I took my favorite standby sugar cookie recipe, HERE  and just made normal cookies.
(I did substitute the vegetable shortening with coconut oil.  All of it, and liked how they turned out, but that's another story).

As the cookies baked and I saw the cute hearts begin to lose their cute shapes and tight lines, the epiphany struck.

After cooling the cookies, but before they were too cool, I took my trusty cookie cutter (the one I had just cut them with), and I cut them again.  I don't know why I didn't think of it before, but suddenly, I have a ton of UNIFORM cookies!  Which look great.  And will be easier to frost.

I like the crisp lines, and am thrilled with the results.