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Carolyn

Sara

      Sara and me

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Just finished reading The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley. The premise of this book is different . . . a woman writer goes to Scotland to connect with distant heritage. She hopes to gain inspiration for her next book. As she investigates, she discovers she’s related to a family that lived in the early 1700s at Slains Castle on the east coast of Scotland near Aberdeen. This was the time of the Jacobite rebellion (the exiled King James and his hoped-for return to England). When I say this woman gets inspiration . . .well, it’s more than that. She questions whether she could possibly have genes that contain memory (what an idea, huh?), because she begins to know how events took place, who the people were, what they said, exactly where they stood, the layout of the castle, even the furniture in the rooms. She wasn’t channeling, actually, but I suppose it could be interpreted so. The book is full of the Jacobite history (more than I’d ever known before, but then I love English/Scottish history). There’s a romance back then, and a romance in the today time. Both lovely. Great book. An historical novel of the first order.

Another great read, The Island of Sea Women: A Novel by Lisa See. Six months ago I attended an author’s talk at the Bowers Museum. Lisa See was the speaker and shared her story about this book. I’ve heard her speak several times before (she lives near me) and have read several of her books. This one, though, is very different. She was sitting in a doctor’s office reading some magazine and spotted a tiny snippet of data about Jeju Island off the coast of Korea where the island as a whole is matriarchal because the women were trained from a young age to deep dive, free dive, for mollusks. These women were the bread winners. Husbands stayed home and cared for the babies. The island is real. The history is real. And what happened during WWII on this island is horrific – makes me feel ashamed that our military had a hand in what happened to many people. But everyone should read this book. It’s a novel, about 2 girls who are divers and how their lives diverge for a variety of cultural reasons and because of the war.

Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford. A novel about the early days of radio in London. This book takes place in the 1920s and tells not only the general history of the early days of radio, but also the role women played (a vital one). Initially it was in the background, because women weren’t considered intelligent enough. Maisie, the heroine in the book, works her way up the ranks. It’s a fascinating read from beginning to end. Many famous characters (real) flow through the studios. Early voting rights play a part in the story line also. And some wartime intrigue. You’ll find yourself cheering from the bleachers when women make a tiny inroad into the male-dominated field.

A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts by Therese Anne Fowler. My friend Ann, from Idaho, brought it with her as we spent a week in Palm Desert in February. She handed it to me and said I’d really like it. Oh, did I! Loved the book. This book is a novel, but based on the life of Alva Smith Vanderbilt (Belmont). Her family was nearly destitute (and faking it) when a marriage was proposed for her with William Vanderbilt. There is lots of dialogue in the book which is made up, but I’m guessing the author probably read many diary entries of Alva (and the family) to create a very intriguing and readable story. A life of unbelievable privilege. Several children, including one who marries into a titled family in England. You see the inner life of Alva – her day to day busy work, charity work, visiting for afternoon tea, the undercurrent of society’s morals – men were nearly expected to have mistresses or affairs. This was the Victorian Age when sex between husbands and wives was not necessarily, and usually not, passionate. I loved this book from page one until the end.  Alva was a suffragette of the first order. Having read the book, I have a lot of admiration for her, even though she lived in the highest echelons of society.

Also read In Falling Snow: A Novel, by Mary-Rose McColl. From amazon: Iris, a young Australian nurse, travels to France during World War I to bring home her fifteen-year-old brother, who ran away to enlist. But in Paris she meets the charismatic Dr. Frances Ivens, who convinces Iris to help establish a field hospital in the old abbey at Royaumont, staffed entirely by women—a decision that will change her life. Seamlessly interwoven is the story of Grace, Iris’s granddaughter in 1970s Australia. Together their narratives paint a portrait of the changing role of women in medicine and the powerful legacy of love. The book  gives you a vivid picture of the state of nursing in WWI, but the story is quite mesmerizing. And there’s a twist almost at the end. Highly recommend.

Also couldn’t put down The Secret Wife by Gill Paul. A long story that begins in war-torn Russia. Cavalry officer Dmitri falls head over heels in love with one of the daughters of Tzar Nicholas. But events intervene, as history tells us. That was 1914. Cut to 2016 when a young woman inherits an ancient cabin in upper New York State and she discovers a jeweled pendant. The two times weave together to make a really riveting story. Lots of Russian history; well written; as I said, couldn’t put it down.

Uncommon Woman. A book about Colonial America, but really the western frontier at that time, which is in western Pennsylvania. The warring native Americans play large in this book. There is a romance, yes, but this book is not “a romance.” It’s more than that – about the hardships of living on the land, away from protection, Tessa and her family struggle to make a living and avoid the angered natives who take revenge when their people are murdered. Clay Tygart is a respected officer/soldier and commands a fort near where Tessa lives. Clay was captured by Lanape Indians when he was a young man, so he straddles both sides of the equation – first hand, he knows how the natives feel, but also his role in the lure of American exploration of the west. The natives wish to preserve their hunting grounds from the encroaching settlers. This book takes place in the mid-1700s I think. Loved it. Not only the history that is brilliantly detailed, even to the summer heat they experience. The crops they raise, the constant fear of attack. And the sweet love that weaves through it. Not a speck of sex in it.

Reading mysteries has never loomed large in my reading life. Occasionally, yes. And some espionage type books. But light mysteries have not intrigued me much. But one of my book clubs had us read Louise Penny’s novel, A Rule Against Murder (Chief Inspector Gamache Novel). The member actually handed out a cheat sheet of the characters in the book (many) and posed several questions of us as we read through it. The cheat sheet really helped. She asked us when (or if) we caught the foreshadowing of the murder culprit (I never did). The book takes place at a lovely inn in Canada and Chief Inspector Gamache (he is quite a character – along with his wife – are vacationing there) when a murder occurs. None of the characters escape the C.I.’s scrutiny. Lois, our book club member, led us through a very thorough and lively discussion of the book. Usually, my complaint about murder mysteries is that they don’t make for good discussion at a book club – but this book was an exception, for sure. Many of my learned book club friends rave about Louise Penny. One told me I should read Still Life next, and probably should have read it before I read this one.

Rachel Hauck is an author I’ve enjoyed reading over the years. Just finished reading The Memory House. It’s about relationships. Love. About family. About secrets. Doesn’t that just describe about 90% of every novel out there these days? Beck is a cop in NYC; a series of events occur and she is forced to take leave. Just then she inherits a house in Florida. She barely remembers the woman who bequeathed the house to her. Then you meet Bruno, a sports agent who will figure large in Beck’s life. Then the book jumps back in time to Everleigh, the woman who owned the house and you learn her story. Really stories of her two husbands. And how do those stories connect to present day. Very sweet book. Not a speck of sex in this one, either.

The Parrot Who Owns Me: The Story of a Relationship by Joanna Burger. Such an interesting book – nonfiction. The author is an ornithologist by profession (and a PhD) and this memoir of sorts is about her Red-Lored Amazon parrot she and her husband own. But no, it’s the parrot who owns her/them.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. A book club friend recommended this book, I immediately bought it on my Kindle. I could NOT put the book down. I devoured it. Any other “work” I should have been doing was swept aside as I read and read of Resolute’s adventures. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America. This book is the story of her life. The people she met, the men in her life, her children, and always about her indefatigable energy for life. Always hoping to return to Jamaica.

Finished The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek: A Novel by Kim Richardson.  It’s a novel about the first mobile library in Kentucky (this is the 1930s) and the fierce, brave packhorse librarians who wove their way from shack to shack dispensing literacy, hope, and, just as importantly, a compassionate human connection.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This book was offered as a bargain book from Bookbub, and something about the description resonated with me – maybe because of my Old Testament readings regarding the lives of shepherds back in ancient days. I utterly loved this book. It might not suit everyone – it’s a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being regarding going to school and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. He bickers with his father, eventually moves out. One night in a pub with his blokes (friends) he enters some kind of a contest in the pub and realizes he has a lot more knowledge than he thought he did. In time he applies to get what I’d call here in the U.S. a G.E.D (high school diploma), which he does, and then he applies to Oxford, on a whim. And gets in. He graduates. He applies his knowledge to his rural life. He marries, has children, but still, his day to day life is all about his Herdwick sheep, although he does have a day job too working for UNESCO. You’ll learn more about sheep than you might have wanted to know. I absolutely loved, LOVED this book. If you are interested, James Rebanks has a Twitter feed, called @herdyshepherd1, and you can sign up to get updates from him about his farm and his sheep. I don’t do Twitter or I would.

Moloka’i: A Novel by Alan Brennert. A riveting book about the early days of Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) in Hawaii, and the stigma attached to the victims AND their families. It chronicles the story of a young woman, diagnosed almost as a child, and ostracized from her family, subsequently learning to live alone and remote.

House by the Fjord by Rosalind Laker. What a darling story. From amazon: A touching and atmospheric love story – When Anna Harvik travels to Norway in 1946 in order to visit the family of her late husband, the country is only just recovering from five cruel years of Nazi occupation. So it is with surprise that she finds in this cold and bitter country the capacity for new love and perhaps even a new home. I just loved this book – could hardly put it down; yet it’s not a mystery. You’ll come away with a desire to find that house by the fjord. I want to go there and have some coffee with the Anna, who was a Brit, yet fell head over heels in love with Norway.

Running Blind (Jack Reacher) by Lee Child. A Jack Reacher mystery. From amazon: Across the country, women are being murdered, victims of a disciplined and clever killer who leaves no trace evidence, no fatal wounds, no signs of struggle, and no clues to an apparent motive. They are, truly, perfect crimes. Until Jack Reacher gets in the middle of it. A page turner, as are all of the Jack Reacher stories.

Say Goodbye for Now by Catherine Ryan Hyde. This story, which takes place in a kind of Texas backwater, sets a town into an angry mess when two young boys, one white, one black, become friends, something most folks don’t like. At all. There’s a dog involved, the father of the black boy, the father of the white boy plus a woman who lives in the town and does her best to avoid people altogether. But they all get fused. Wonderful story.

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart. A sweet book, true story, of the author and her friend, during one summer in the midst of their college years, going by train to NYC and ultimately getting a job of Tiffany’s.  Cute read.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. You might think what a stretch – what does an Indian (Native American) tribe have to do with the FBI. Read and you’ll find out. This is back in time, 50s I think, and a number of murders have taken place on the Osage Reservation. A wake up call, even for today.

Oh wow. Just finished reading David Guterson’s book, East of the Mountains. You know this author from his most well known book, Snow Falling on Cedars. I loved the Cedars book when I read it years ago, and assumed I’d like this other book (not new) as well. Have you learned to trust my judgment when I tell you, you HAVE to read a book? If I tell you the story line, I can already hear you thinking . . . oh no, I don’t want to read this kind of a book. Please trust me. You’ll come away from it being glad you did.

A fabulous read – Catherine Ryan Hyde’s newest book, Have You Seen Luis Velez? I marvel sometimes about how authors ever come up with the ideas they do, to create the premise for a novel. And this one is right up there at the top of the list. Raymond, a youngster, an older teenager, who has a big lack of self-confidence and feels like an odd duck sometimes, reluctantly (at first) befriends an elderly woman in the apartment building where he lives with his mother and step-father. He discovers she’s blind and needs some help, which he gives her.

Magic Hour: A Novel

Excellent Women

Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist) by Min Jin Lee

An American Marriage (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Tayari Jones.

Recently finished Sally Field’s memoir (autobiography) called In Pieces.

If you want grit, well, read Kristen Hannah’s newest book, The Great Alone: A Novel.

You’ve got to read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book – Take Me With You. What a story.  From Amazon’s description: August Shroeder, a burned-out teacher, has been sober since his nineteen-year-old son died. Every year he’s spent the summer on the road, but making it to Yellowstone this year means everything. The plan had been to travel there with his son, but now August is making the trip with Philip’s ashes instead. An unexpected twist of fate lands August with two extra passengers for his journey, two half-orphans with nowhere else to go. What none of them could have known was how transformative both the trip—and the bonds that develop between them—would prove, driving each to create a new destiny together. Have a tissue handy at the end. It’s such a charming, sweet story. You’ll fall in love with the young boys, and fall in love with them again 10 years later.

The Last Letter from Your Lover: A Novel by JoJo Moyes.

Mark of the Lion : A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, As Sure As the Dawn (Vol 1-3) by Francine Rivers.

Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America

Answer As a Man

Celeste Ng Little Fires Everywhere.

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright.

C.J. Box’s book The Disappeared (A Joe Pickett Novel).

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee.

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian.

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Desserts, on March 20th, 2020.

sour_cherry_choc_torte_slice

Comfort food needed.

In this post I’m addressing the current state of self-quarantine from COVID-19. Today is day nine of my staying at home. Completely. Although I have gone out to take walks. And I delivered documents to my CPA. Otherwise it’s day after day of being at home. I’ve been glued to the TV, having it on from early morning  until bedtime. Kind of depressing. I love my home, but my daughter Dana said to me yesterday (on the phone) that it’s one thing to be content staying at home when it’s your own idea. Not so when someone else tells you you have to stay at home. Yes, I agree. It’s been too cold to sit outside – only walking. And we’ve had a lot of rain besides.

There’s been plenty of cooking going on in my house – and I have posts set up into mid-April. My young next door neighbor, Josee, has declared herself my own personal shopper. God bless her!! I give her a grocery list by text and off she goes, disinfecting everything before she sets it on my front step. Although – lots of things are in short supply or in NO supply (blueberries, for instance, and TP of course). No white onions. Huh? All this hoarding is crazy.

I’m about to start a to-do list – things I want to accomplish during this forced quarantine. Like wipe down all the cupboard shelves in my kitchen that are open or glass fronted. My cleaning gals don’t clean those and it’s been a year or so since I’ve wiped them down. Like working in my garage – cleaning shelves and “stuff” that’s accumulated there. I have a 3-car garage, so there is plenty of space to accumulate stuff. One of the car bays stores my outdoor furniture, but once the weather warms up, that will all go outside. Otherwise, I could still get 3 cars into my garage, but things are encroaching on the ease of doing that. I have one car, of course.

My DH Dave used to be the person who handled the garage – periodically cleaning it out, brooming out detritus, getting it neat again. Since he’s been gone I’ve not done much of that – a bit here and there. And by the way, tomorrow is the 6-year anniversary of his death. I’ve shredded thousands of pages of things that could be tossed, but that’s an ongoing project. I’ve tossed out about 90% of my many thick travel files – with clippings and pages from magazines, newspapers, etc. over the course of about 40 years. Most of it isn’t up to date, so why keep it? My desk in my upstairs study needs to be neatened up. That’ll take about 2 hours at most, but it always gets shoved down the list of things to do. I’ve never been good about keeping a neat desk. Filing has never been my forte! Why haven’t I worked on my painting? I don’t know. Can’t seem to motivate myself to. In time, perhaps.

sour_cherry_choc_torte_topviewSo yesterday I was feeling kind of blah. Physically I’m fine – I mean mentally. So I did what lots of people do – I decided I needed a food reward. And it needed to be chocolate! I went searching in several cookbooks, and settled on Maida Heatter – her book about chocolate. Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Chocolate Desserts. (The book is no longer in print, but used copies are available for a very inexpensive price if you’re so inclined.) She’s a legend, and all of her books are very interesting reading. I own two I think. I’ve never prepared any recipe of hers that hasn’t been perfect – spot on. Nearly every recipe has a paragraph of explanation – who gave her the recipe, where she first ate it – what chef, friend, relative or neighbor prepared it – why it’s special or why she developed it. Lots of recipes contained things I don’t have in my pantry (almond paste, sweetened condensed milk, a lot of cream or milk, or half and half – I have a bit of those, but not enough). I eliminated dozens upon dozens of possible recipes that required a filling or icing. I wanted easy. A chocolate carrot cake intrigued me, but I don’t have enough carrots at the moment (yes, they’re on the next grocery list).

sour_cherry_choc_torte_closeup_cherries

Above: note the cherries kind of buried under the chocolate cake batter, touching the edges.

What I did have in my pantry was a jar of Trader Joe’s Morello (more or less sour) cherries. Perfect for this recipe. And Maida even mentioned that there is a natural marriage between chocolate and cherries. The cake was made with semisweet chocolate (had that), eggs (had the 3 needed), flour, sugar, almond flour (yes), butter, vanilla, almond extract. Yes, I had it all. The cake is made in a springform pan (a 9” one) and Maida wanted you to butter it and dust it with bread crumbs . . . I used almond flour instead.

sour_cherry_choc_torte_sideviewThere is flour in this recipe, so it’s not GF. The batter is made. The cherries are drained and blotted dry with paper towels (yes, I still have ample of those for now). Half the batter is poured into the prepared pan, then you carefully place the cherries all over the batter, even touching the pan side if needed, then the rest of the batter is poured on top and carefully spread. 50 minutes baking time  later it was done, then it cooled. After dinner last night I cut myself a slice, whipped up some cream with kirsch and had myself a slice. I think I’ll freeze at least half of it so I can bring out a piece now and then.

What’s GOOD: yum. The chocolate wasn’t overwhelming – you wouldn’t want it to be, so you could taste the cherries. Loved the moist cherries kind of hidden inside. And the whipped cream with kirsch? Oh yes. If you don’t have it, not to worry, but do serve with the whipped cream.

What’s NOT: nothing really, except you’ve got to have sour cherries (not dried type) on hand.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Sour Cherry Chocolate Torte

Recipe By: Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Chocolate Desserts
Serving Size: 10

24 ounces canned cherries — tart (sour) red cherries packed in water (it needs to yield: scant 2 cups)
6 ounces semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup almonds — ground very fine or use almond flour
1/8 cup almond flour — for dusting the pan
6 ounces unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2/3 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2/3 cup all-purpose flour — scant
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon Kirsch

NOTE: Trader Joe’s Morello cherries packed in water (sweetened some) is a 24-ounce jar. It yielded about 2 1/4 cups of drained cherries.
1. Preheat oven to 350°F, butter a 9″ spring-form pan dust with ground almonds (or fine, dry unseasoned bread crumbs), shake out extra, set aside.
2. Drain cherries, then spread in a single layer on several thicknesses of paper towel, while you continue to prepare the torte. Measure out a scant 2 cups to add to the cake.
3. Melt chocolate in double boiler or microwave. Watch carefully, don’t allow any water to get in the chocolate or it will seize.
4. Cream the butter, add extracts and sugar, beat well; add eggs one at a time beating after each until mixed. On low, add chocolate, beat until mixed, add almonds (flour), then all-purpose flour, mixing just until incorporated.
5. Spread about half or a little more of the batter into the pan (it is thick, using an offset spatula helps) place cherries one at a time over batter in a single layer (they can touch the sides) then spoon and spread the remaining batter over the cherries. Going slow helps prevent pull up.
6. Bake cake 50 minutes – the cake will be dry and crusty on top and a toothpick will come out clean. Cool for 15 minutes on a rack, then remove springform side, let stand until almost cool (to serve warm this is about 30 minutes). Use a long pastry spatula to loosen cake from the cake bottom and slide off onto serving platter. Or cover cake with a rack and flip over, remove pan bottom – you may need to slip a thin spatula between the torte and pan bottom to loosen, cover cake with serving plate and flip back over.
7. Whip cream with sugar and kirsch and serve each slice with a large dollop of whipped cream.
Per Serving: 370 Calories; 19g Fat (44.4% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 47g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 88mg Cholesterol; 46mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on March 2nd, 2020.

sour_cream_walnut_brownies

Oh gosh, just make these, okay? So rich and chocolaty. So easy (mix in one bowl).

The other night I had eaten a very virtuous dinner. A very light dinner. And I just craved a little something sweet. All the chocolate chip cookies are gone (I took them to the desert and my friend Ann and I ate the two dozen or so I took out there). I scrounged in the freezer, thinking there might be something in there. Nope. I try not to keep ice cream in the freezer, because it beckons me too often to come have some. So there was simply nothing in the freezer to satisfy. So I opted to make something new. Brownies.

There are so many different textures of brownies out there – thick, thin, chewy, crunchy, even fudge-like ones, or the kind that have a shiny, crackled top. And then there are cake-type, like these. Do you have a favorite? These may be my new favs.

What was the greatest? They were mixed up, by hand, in one bowl. I did melt the butter and chocolate in a separate bowl in the microwave (and watched it very carefully so it wouldn’t boil), and I used a wooden spoon and a rubber spatula. But that was all it took. The pan needs a foil sling, so don’t overlook that part, and I sprayed the foil with EVOO. Eggs gave it nice lift, and the sour cream (only 1/3 cup) gave it tenderness. And it only contains 1/2 cup flour. What provides the dense chocolate flavor is the use of some bar chocolate (I used dark) and a hefty amount of Dutch-processed cocoa. Some brownie recipes use pecans. I prefer walnuts. Into a 325°F oven they went and 40 minutes later they were just barely cooked through. Because they’re such a tender cake-type, you definitely want to let them cool in the pan for awhile.

I did use monkfruit sweetener for half of the sugar amount called for. I couldn’t even tell there was any alternative sweetener in there. I do like the monkfruit type – has a very natural taste.

These could feed 9 hearty eaters, but I cut this into much smaller squares. The recipe does say 16, but you could easily get 18-20, I think. Don’t refrigerate them – just put them in a covered container. If you don’t eat them within 48 hours, freeze them, using parchment paper in between the layers so they won’t stick to each other.

What’s GOOD: love-loved the tender texture, cake-like, and intense chocolate flavor of these. A little serving gives you a big jolt of happiness.

What’s NOT: nary a thing that I can think of, unless you don’t like this type of tender brownie.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Sour Cream Walnut Brownies

Serving Size: 16 (or more)

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate — coarsely chopped
14 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup walnuts — coarsely chopped

NOTE: If you’re watching sugar intake, you may easily swap monkfruit sweetener for the sugar, or use half sugar and half monkfruit.
1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a 8-inch square pan with foil so that at least 2 inches hang over two opposite sides. Spray the foil with EVOO, or grease with butter.
2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler or use a microwave (but watch it carefully so it doesn’t boil). Stir occasionally until melted and smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl.
3. Using a wooden spoon, beat in cocoa powder and sugar until well blended. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in sour cream and vanilla extract. Add flour and salt. Mix just until blended. Stir in walnuts.
4. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 40-45 minutes or until done. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out with a few moist crumbs attached. Cool for about 30 minutes in the pan on wire rack then use foil sling to remove them to the rack to cool completely. Will keep a few days at room temp, or freeze for longer storage. If freezing, use parchment paper to separate the layers so the brownies don’t stick, as they are very moist.
Per Serving: 272 Calories; 20g Fat (62.1% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 22g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 69mg Cholesterol; 37mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on December 6th, 2019.

germ_choc_pecan_pie

Like Pecan Pie? Like chocolate? What a combo.

Pecan pie has never been something at the top of my sweets list of likes. My mother used to make one at Christmas or Thanksgiving because my dad liked it. Not me so much – mostly because they were always too sweet and sticky. A bite or two over my lifetime, yes, I’ve had a slice. But not usually by choice – only if it had been embarrassing to not take some. I’d pick at it. Well, now, with this recipe, from a Phillis Carey class, I may be on the bandwagon – but only if it’s made this way. With chocolate on the bottom. And whipped cream on top. The crust I can’t have, although I now have a pie crust recipe that’s lectin-free – haven’t tried it yet. This pie isn’t quite as sweet as some, and the sticky texture wasn’t quite so predominant. I ate the interior of the pie and all the whipped cream. So delicious.

The original recipe came from Rachel Ray. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if a chocolate pecan pie has been around the block over the years. Who knows, really, where it originated.

What’s GOOD: the chocolate layer inside. The not-quite-so-sticky filling. And definitely the whipped cream that cuts the richness.

What’s NOT: only the work required to make a pie crust and pie.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

German Chocolate Pecan Pie

Recipe By: Cooking class with Phillis Carey, Nov. 2019
Serving Size: 8

CRUST:
1 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 ounces unsalted butter — cut into small pieces
1/4 cup ice water
FILLING:
2 large eggs
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 1/2 cups pecan halves — (about 10 ounces) coarsely chopped
3/4 cup sweetened coconut flakes
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
TOPPING:
2/3 cup heavy cream — whipped
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

1. In a food processor, pulse the flour with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add the chilled butter pieces and pulse until coarse crumbs form, about 5 seconds. Drizzle in the ice water and pulse just until the dough comes together. Wrap in plastic wrap; flatten to form a disk. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.
2. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 12-inch round; transfer to a pie pan. Cut the excess dough to leave a 1/2-inch overhang. Using your fingers, roll the dough edge under and crimp. Prick the bottom of the pie shell with a fork; refrigerate for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees .
3. Line the shell with foil and pie weights or dried beans; bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and beans, reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake for another 12 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the eggs. In a heavy, medium saucepan, whisk together the remaining 5 tablespoons butter and 1/2 teaspoon salt with the brown sugar and corn syrup over medium heat until melted and smooth. Whisk the sugar mixture into the beaten eggs. Stir in the nuts and coconut.
5. Spread the chocolate chips in the pie shell. Pour in the filling and bake until set, about 25 minutes. Let the pie cool completely before slicing.
6. Whip heavy cream with sugar and add a big dollop on each slice.
Per Serving: 769 Calories; 57g Fat (63.9% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 65g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 131mg Cholesterol; 345mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on November 9th, 2019.

cherry_cheesecake_trifle

The title is a bit of a misnomer, I think. There isn’t much “trifle” here. It’s a layered kind of cheesecake pudding with Amaretto overtones and accented with sweet, dark cherries.

My friend Cherrie does a girls’ luncheon every October. She calls it a witches lunch and does all kinds of witch-type themes. We’re supposed to come in some kind of costume. I wore a Halloween apron that says BOO on it. I’ve never been much of a costume person. Most of the ladies had very fancy Halloween head paraphernalia, or hats, or scarves, or orange/black feathers. The apron was just fine for me. Some just wore black. But all that aside, it was very fun. I offered to bring dessert and this pudding kind of thing seemed just right.

The original recipe came from Taste of Home (I didn’t try to look it up online), just copied it from a booklet Cherrie gave me. What’s missing from the recipe for a “trifle” is some kind of cake – like ladyfingers, or pound cake – which is more common in a trifle. So how it got named a trifle is beyond me.

What you see there in the cup (a beverage cup) is a layer of Amaretto-scented cheesecake pudding (not a cooked type), a layer of dark sweet cherries, then topped with a bunch of Cool-Whip, then accented with one cherry and some shaved chocolate. I made the cheesecake part (most of it) the day before. It’s merely cream cheese, powdered sugar and Amaretto mixed together. Just before serving you lighten it up with some Cool-Whip. That was a little bit tedious as the cheesecake part was relatively firm, and the other, obviously, very light and fluffy. It took a couple of minutes of light folding to get it all to combine. It worked. That went into the bottom of the cup. The day before I’d also cooked the frozen cherries with sugar and vanilla and let them chill in the refrigerator overnight.

Cherrie’s daughter-in-law Brianna helped me compose all these desserts. I was very grateful for her help because it was a bit tedious to make these for 13 people. Probably took about 20 minutes altogether with two of us working at it. So, one piece of advice, don’t make this for a large group (recipe said not to make it ahead, probably because of the Cool-Whip not holding  up in the cheesecake part). For 6-8 people, it wouldn’t be difficult.

Since I’ve now made this, I’ve decided to change-up the recipe a little bit. First, I’d use real whipped cream for the topping. But I’d still use the Cool-Whip for the cheesecake part. I’d also cook the cherries differently – I’d use my favorite recipe for cherries, Fresh Bing Cherry Compote. They’re flavored with allspice, clove and cinnamon and poached in red wine. THIS recipe used frozen cherries – which will work just fine with that recipe for fresh Bing cherries. The only other change I’ve made to this recipe is to use some of the flavorful juice – I spooned some of it in the middle, and then some more on the top. Made the finished dessert look prettier. So, the recipe below incorporates all of those changes I’d make.

What’s GOOD: so creamy and delicious. If you don’t like cream, or creamy pudding like desserts, give this a pass. It was a great dessert in my book.

What’s NOT: you can’t make this up ahead – needs composing just before serving. Also, it’s a bit time-consuming to assemble, so don’t make this for a big group. Much too tedious. But for 6-8 it would be fine.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Cherry Cheesecake Trifles

Recipe By: Adapted from Taste of Home
Serving Size: 6

CHERRIES:
1 pound cherries — fresh, stemmed, pitted, halved *
1/4 cup sugar
1 whole clove
1 whole allspice berry
1 stick cinnamon
1/2 cup red wine
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
AMARETTO CREAM CHEESE FILLING:
8 ounces cream cheese — softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons Amaretto
8 fluid ounces Cool Whip® — Extra Creamy type, thawed
TRIFLE:
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
GARNISH:
6 cherries — from the cooked batch above
shaved chocolate

* Or use same quantity of frozen and thawed unsweetened cherries. Recipe indicates using frozen (hence cold) may affect cooking time.
1. CHERRIES: In a medium saucepan heat cherries, sugar, clove, allspice berry, cinnamon and red wine over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Add the balsamic vinegar and stir in. If possible, make this a day ahead and chill, allowing the flavors to meld.
2. FILLING: In a medium bowl, beat softened cream cheese and sugar with a mixer at med-high speed until smooth and creamy. Add Amaretto, beating to combine. Add whipped topping and beat until smooth. Do not make this ahead.
3. TRIFLE: Whip the heavy cream with sugar until stiff peaks form. Layer Amaretto cream cheese on bottom of short parfait glasses or cups, a layer of cherries with some of the juice, then add the whipped cream. With a spoon, swirl the whipped cream up to a slight peak if possible and that’s where you’ll place the single cherry.
4. GARNISH: Garnish with additional cherries if available, drizzle with a bit more of the cherry juices and shave chocolate over the top.
Per Serving: 521 Calories; 31g Fat (54.0% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 54g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 96mg Cholesterol; 148mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, Gundry-friendly, on October 6th, 2019.

gf_almond_brownies

Decadent tasting, full of chocolate, chocolate chips and chopped almonds. AND gluten free.

Last week I had a new friend come to visit for a few hours. She’s a Type 1 diabetic (like my DH was) and she does her best to avoid carbs. I introduced her to chaffles (you can google it – it’s quite a phenom in the low carb world). My chaffle is not really one made with cheese (that what the ch means in the name, the affle means it’s made in a little Sur La Table Dash Mini Waffle Maker waffle iron which makes one waffle round). Mine was made of egg and a tetch of almond flour, a tablespoon of mayo, baking powder and water. I doubt many of you would be interested in any of this, but they make a great substitute for bread. Put two together and you have a sandwich. If you’re interested in the recipe, click that link.

Anyway, when I pulled out my bag of Costco’s Kirkland almond flour to demonstrate how easy it is to make a sandwich chaffle, my friend Vicki asked if I’d tried the almond brownie recipe on the back of the bag. Nope, had not. But it got my taste buds hankering for brownies.

Daughter Sara and her husband were here this weekend so I had a reason to make these brownies. I did use Hershey’s cocoa powder extra dark – so the resulting brownies were really dark/black. Regular cocoa powder might not make them so dark colored. Me? I’m all into the intense flavor. But, if I’d made them for myself, I’d have eaten them all – myself. Not good. Even though they’re GF, and not too high in fat, they’re still calories. As I’m writing this, there are just 4 left. Maybe I’ll freeze them so I can dole them out to myself slowly. We’ll see how THAT goes! I cut them into small squares – I think I got more than 16 out of the 8×8 pan. But you can cut them any size you want.

Because I loved them. And I know my cousin Gary, who loves carbs and chocolate, but is GF, will love these too. He’s not much of a baker, so I’ll make a batch for him when he comes to visit next month. I mixed these up in a bowl with my hand mixer and they baked for about 30+ minutes. Once cooled, these were still quite wet/sticky, but by this morning they were perfect for picking up in hand and didn’t fall apart. I forgot to put more almonds on top. Made no never-mind in the end. These are delicious. I did use some sugar (not supposed to have any sugar, but I used half and half with artificial sugar). I think next time I’ll use a little less sugar and Swerve – I think they’re quite sweet.

What’s GOOD: the intense chocolate flavor. Love that I can have a brownie recipe that satisfies my desire for something brownie-like. The longer I’m on a no-flour diet, I realize how much white flour is used in everyday cooking, and how incredibly versatile it is. AND how important it is to making baked goods have the texture they do. Can’t get that with any of the substitute flours out there. Anyway, I loved these and will most definitely be making them again.

What’s NOT: nothing really – you do need almond flour. Trader Joe’s brand does have the skins in with the flour in their bag (which I can’t have on this diet – lectins live in the skins of almonds, amongst hundreds of other places in various foods). Kirkland’s is ground up blanched almonds. That’s what I buy now and keep it in the freezer to store it so it stays fresher, longer. What these don’t have if a ton of chewiness – they’re quite tender and soft. You won’t get chew from almond flour, I guess.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file – click link to open recipe

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Gluten-Free Chocolate Almond Brownies

Recipe By: adapted slightly from Kirkland brand almond flour package
Serving Size: 16

2 tablespoons butter — softened
1/4 cup Swerve — or other artificial sweetener
1/4 cup sugar — or use all artificial
1 egg
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk — or whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup almond flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup almonds — chopped
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
More almonds for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Cream together butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl. Blend in egg. Blend in almond milk and vanilla.
3. In another bowl, whisk together almond flour, cocoa powder, sea salt and baking powder. Add to butter mixture and blend just until mixed. Stir in chopped almonds and chocolate chips.
4. Coat an 8 X 8 baking pan with non-sticking cooking spray. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 30-35 minutes.
5. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before slicing and serving. They’re better if allowed to cool well (like overnight). Right out of the oven they may be quite wet and sticky, hard to hold together.
5. Garnish with more chopped almonds or with sliced almonds, toasted. Goes well with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Per Serving: 98 Calories; 6g Fat (42.3% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 17mg Cholesterol; 66mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on September 10th, 2019.

lemon_curd_pudding

You love lemon? Oh, this pudding is for you. Tart and sweet.

One of my granddaughters (Taylor) is visiting me from Northern California. She graduated with a BS from Cal State Sacramento last May and is waiting to hear if she’s been admitted to a fast-track nursing school. If so, she’ll graduate in a year with a BSN. So she’s enjoying time off. Taylor and I were invited to friends the other night for dinner and I offered to bring dessert. I found this recipe in my repertoire of recipes to try – I thought it was a recipe from Marie Rayner, but I can’t find it on her blog.

lemon_curd_pudding_without_toppingAnyway, the original recipe was a pudding with a meringue topping. I’m not such a fan of meringue (like in pie) so I made it with a whipped cream topping flavored with limoncello. The pudding was easy enough to make. I used my copper-core All-Clad pan and put it on top of a flame tamer too, but by doing so I was able to make the pudding in it rather than resorting to a double boiler, which is what the recipe recommends. Anyway, added egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, cream cheese, sour cream. It was warmed up to a slow simmer and thickened a bit (not much, really), cooled, then I mixed in some heavy cream. Poured it into little cups, cooled and chilled.

Then, just before serving I whipped some cream to soft peaks, added a jot of limoncello. I didn’t add any sugar as the pudding was sweet enough already, I believed. Garnished with a mint leaf from Bud & Cherrie’s herb garden. The pudding isn’t a firm pudding – a soft, gentle one.

If you wanted to use the leftover egg whites, by all means, make a meringue with 2 & 2/3 tablespoons of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar and pour over the pudding. Bake at 425°F for about 6 minutes until the meringue is lightly browned.

lemon_curd_pudding_group

Here they are all lined up to serve. Even though it’s still very much summer here in SoCal, Cherrie has brought out all of her fall stuff. Loved the little fall-color plates she’d put out for me to use.

What’s GOOD: love-loved the lemony, tart flavor. I wanted to lick the little ramekin. Not nice to do that! Liked the fact that it was a small serving. Super smooth (make sure you get all of the little tiny pieces of cream cheese to dissolve smoothly into the pudding – Taylor helped me and we used a spring coil whisk to make that happen).

What’s NOT: a little bit tricky to transport, but it all worked fine. Nothing else.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Lemon Curd Pudding with Limoncello Whipped Cream

Serving Size: 8

3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
4 ounces cream cheese
1 1/3 cups sour cream
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 1/3 teaspoons lemon zest — grated
2/3 cup heavy cream
WHIPPED CREAM:
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons limoncello
8 small mint sprigs

1. Beat the egg yolks in a mixing bowl. Whisk in the sugar, cream cheese and sour cream. Blend until smooth. Use a spring coil whisk to make sure you dissolve all of the cream cheese. Add the lemon juice and the zest.
2. Place n the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Cook and stir until the mixture bubbles and thickens. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
3. Whip the cream until thick. Fold this into the lemon mixture. Divide the pudding between custard cups or ramekins. Chill until serving time.
4. TOPPING: Whip the heavy cream and add limoncello at the end. You can add sugar to this if you think it’s needed. Spoon onto the ramekins. Garnish each with a mint sprig. Make small servings, which is fine as it’s rich.
Per Serving: 336 Calories; 28g Fat (74.2% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 160mg Cholesterol; 79mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, Uncategorized, on August 11th, 2019.

The Right Way to Make Tres Leches Cake!

This cake is easy and delicious without the soggy mess. 

A post from Sara – I’ve made a few Tres Leches cakes in my time and have always been disappointed with the soggy mess left by the milk mixture.  Finally, I’ve found a cake that can stand up to the mixture and a trick to prevent the sogginess thanks to Ina Garten.   There is no butter or oil in this cake which, in my opinion, allows the cake to absorb it after baking.  I think traditionally the Tres Leche cake is frosted with either meringue or a whipped topping.  I love the simple square cut of the cake topped with whipped cream and berries.  It’s much easier to store and serve which makes it a perfect make-ahead dessert.  Just whip up the cream and toss the strawberries together before serving.  I used strawberries from Bonsall Farms here in Vista.  It’s a local grower and the berries are naturally sweet perfectly red all the way through.  I actually decided not to add the extra sugar into the berries.

The trick with this cake is to beat the sugar and eggs for 10 minutes.  Yes!  Really!  It leaves the eggs thick and fluffy and a pale yellow color.  Then add the milk and flour mixture alternately.  Mix it a couple more times by hand to be sure its combined.  After it’s baked and cooled slightly, you are ready to add the milk mixture.  GO SLOWLY… pour 1/4 of mixture over punctured cake, then wait until its all absorbed.  Then another 1/4 of mixture and so on.  It allows the cake to take in the liquid rather than it sinking to the bottom of the pan and becoming a soggy mess.

Just wanted to say that mom and I (OK, just me!) having technical difficulty adding the .pdf recipe file into the blog.  So, I officially give up.  Please print screen from here or cut and paste the recipe into word processor.  Sorry.

What’s Good:  I love how easy this cake is to make.  I almost always have the ingredients in my pantry.  And I am all about make ahead dishes.

What’s Not:  It’s definitely a plan ahead dessert.  This would not work for an unexpected guest.

Tres Leches Cake with Berries

Recipe By : Farmhouse Rules
Serving Size : 12

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs — room temperature
1 cup sugar
5 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
12 ounces evaporated milk
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 vanilla bean — scrape seeds
whipped cream — for topping
8 cups strawberries, sliced

1. Pre heat oven to 350 and butter 9×13″ pan.
2. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into small bowl and set aside.
3. Place eggs, 1c sugar and vanilla extract into bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle. Beat on medium-high for 10 min (really!) until light yellow and fluffy.
4. Reduce speed to low and slowly add flour mixture, then milk, then last of flour mixture.
5. Pour into prepared pan, smooth top and bake for 25 mins, until cake springs back when touched and cake tester comes out clean.
6. Set aside to cool in pan for 30 mins.
7. In a 4c measuring cup, whisk together the heavy cream, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, almond extract and vanilla bean seeds. Using a skewer, poke holes all over the cooled cake and slowly pour cream mixture over the cake allowing to be absorbed completely before continuing to pour more. Cover cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hrs.
8. To serve, toss strawberries with 5T sugar, cut square of cake, add strawberries and whipped cream.

Per Serving: 432 Calories; 16g Fat (33.4% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 64g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 108mg Cholesterol; 320mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on July 28th, 2019.

red_hot_cool_strawberries_serving

Oh goodness. Was this dessert ever the hit of the party. If strawberry season is still available where you live, this will have you swooning.

Having invited 8 friends over for dinner last night (9 with me included), I began working on the menu. Because, as a widow, I’m doing all the work myself, I’ve learned that I have to choose things that are do-able for me. Definitely not the more elaborate menus I might have done when Dave was alive. He was a huge help to me when we entertained. Yes, I miss him for that and many other reasons, but getting ready for a dinner party was one of his favorite things!

Since I knew we’d be eating outside, that meant at least a couple hour’s work – cleaning up the patio to be ready for guests, setting the table, cleaning the outdoor countertop where I serve buffet style, getting ready to grill, removing all the towels that drape across all the outdoor furniture when I’m not out there, plus shopping and preparing all the food, of course.

So, I’d already decided to do my easy favorite, the Grilled Salmon with Watercress Salad that has been a part of my cooking repertoire for at least 25 years. Only one store in my area still stocks the full grown watercress (not the puny one in the root ball), so that was about a 25 minute drive just to get there. A separate stop for the salmon and peppers to grill with the salmon, and then another shopping trip for everything else.

So. Dessert. Since strawberries are still available, I’d seen a recipe for a strawberry compote kind of thing where the strawberries are cooked with chile de arbol and served with a refreshing whipped-up sauce of yogurt and cream cheese. It just sounded SO different, I had to try it.

Image result for chile de arbolThe strawberries were cut up into about 1/2” pieces. Meanwhile I cooked, so to speak, the dried chile. First I removed the stem and seeds from 2 chile de arbol. See photo at right. They’re long, skinny. And dried, of course. They’re low on the Scoville scale, although I might be readjusting this recipe to use a little LESS of the chile. I think the package said they’re a 9500, roughly about twice as hot as a jalapeno chile. I kind of flattened the chiles and put them into a medium-high heated ceramic pan and let it absorb the heat. It never got to the point of smoking, but the recipe indicated until the chile was slightly browned. I couldn’t really tell if it was browned, necessarily. I did it for about 4-5 minutes, I’d guess. The chiles were cooled, then put into a mortar and I ground it up into a fairly small bit of chile dust. You could use a spice grinder for this, also. My hands felt the heat, however, from handling them. Even a couple of hours later I could still feel the heat around one of my fingernails.

hot_strawberriesI cooked the strawberries with just a little bit of sugar (and the chile dust) until they’d begun to slump and lose their shape. The recipe I started with suggested cooking 15 minutes. No. Lot less than that. I think I stopped at about 8 minutes and as the strawberries cooled they cooked even more. Definitely you should undercook them. Those were cooled and then chilled. You could definitely make this a day ahead.

Well, then. So I tasted them. Oooh. That chile de arbol has an afterburn. In the interim, however, I’d made the sauce it was initially to be paired with – a mixture of yogurt (I used coconut yogurt) and cream cheese. But having tasted the strawberries, I knew immediately that the little bit of yogurt sauce wasn’t going to be enough to temper the heat. So, I revised my plan altogether and made a kind of Eton Mess. Here on my blog you’ll find a recipe that I’ve made for years that’s a riff on the English college’s favorite desserts, a way to use up some berries or fruit.

red_hot_cool_tray

There’s a photo of the tray of them. I had my friend Cherrie help me putting them all together. First, though, 30 minutes before I was planning to serve the ice cream, I moved the tub of vanilla ice cream to the refrigerator. I read this hint recently for easier scooping. It worked like a CHARM!. I’ll be doing that little trick from now on. Just don’t forget to put the remaining ice cream back into the freezer!

First, into the bottom went a nice ball of ice cream. Then chilled berries on top (don’t use them all because you put more on top later). Then the drizzle of the yogurt/cream cheese mixture, a few more berries, then a big dollop of sweetened whipped cream. Trader Joe’s stocks a vanilla meringue cookie – it literally never gets stale – my tub of them has been in my pantry for at least 2 years. A couple of those were crushed up and just a tiny sprinkling of the meringue went on top of each serving. Top with a mint sprig AND a shaving of dark chocolate. You could put another berry on top too, if you’d like to. I like the dark green to be contrasted with the cream, however. The original recipe came from a recent issue of Food and Wine, but I made so many changes to it, it hardly resembles what was in the magazine.

Then these beauties were served. I warned everyone that there was some heat to the dessert – I think I saw some frowns at the table. Like whaaat? Then everyone began and there was stunned silence at the table. Just the clink of spoons in the glass compote dishes. Then began the oohs and aaahs. I think 3 of my friends said “is this going to be on your blog?” Obviously I needed to say yes. I’ll also be posting the pasta salad I made too. I didn’t eat any of it, but I heard raves all around about it. As people were finishing up, several said, oh that dessert was just the best part of the dinner.

What’s GOOD: oh, gracious. Every single solitary morsel of this was beyond wonderful. I have some leftover berries – I’ll be having them over some ice cream. (And no, regular ice cream isn’t on my diet, but I’m having it anyway.)

What’s NOT: I can’t think of anything . . . you do need to make the berry compote ahead of time, with time for it to chill. And you’ll need to find chile de arbol. I had considered using a big, fat jalapeno chile in it if I hadn’t found the dried chiles. Obviously, do NOT serve this to people who don’t like spicy, chile-induced heat.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

Red, Hot, and Cool Strawberries – riff on Eton Mess

Recipe By: Adapted from a Food & Wine recipe
Serving Size: 8

2 chile de árbol — stemmed and seeded or similar chile
14 ounces strawberries — hulled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup superfine sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup Greek yogurt, full-fat — or coconut yogurt
4 ounces cream cheese — softened
8 scoops vanilla ice cream
3 small meringue cookies — crumbled
2/3 cup heavy cream — whipped, with sugar and vanilla
Fresh mint leaves — for garnish

1. Heat a small skillet over high; add chile, and cook, tossing occasionally, until toasted and a nutty aroma is released, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from skillet, and crush in a mortar and pestle.
2. Stir together crushed chile, strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil over high, and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened and syrupy, about 8-12 minutes. (Strawberries should mostly keep their shape; if they start collapsing, remove from heat sooner.) Remove from heat, and let strawberry mixture cool completely, about 25 minutes. Chill.
3. While strawberry mixture cools, whisk together yogurt and cream cheese in a medium bowl until smooth. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
4. Scoop ice cream into bottom of each serving dish, spoon on some of the strawberries, drizzle with yogurt mixture, add more strawberries, then spoon whipped cream on top. Grate a tiny bit of bar chocolate on top, then garnish with mint leaves, and serve.
Per Serving: 321 Calories; 21g Fat (58.4% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 29g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 81mg Cholesterol; 115mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on May 8th, 2019.

apple_cinn_custard_cake_whole

Lovely, lovely apple cake – maybe more like a torte. Light, tender yet packed with sliced apples.

Hi everyone – Carolyn here – how am I? Good. Busy. Have just finished having my laundry room remodeled – so happy to have my washer/dryer back and installed. Have moved my kitty’s circulating water bowl and food dispensing machine into the laundry room and have had to teach him where it is (remember, he’s blind). It took him a few days. Am currently having solar panels installed on my roof. Am glad I’m getting this done just before the summer heat begins. The company has guaranteed I’ll have a reduction of at least 55% of my current high electric bill (and maybe more). It’s supposed to pay for itself in 4 years. Otherwise I’m good. Do I miss writing the blog? Yes, I must say that I do, but not enough to write often! I’m still on the Steven Gundry diet (14 months and counting) and am still losing. I’m still on a regimen of soup for lunch and a salad for dinner with some kind of protein in it. Salad dressings are my most innovative, although I am making numerous varieties of soup too. Made an Arabic ground lamb and vegetable soup yesterday. Lamb really isn’t on the diet, but I was tired of chicken and fish so picked up a package of ground lamb that looked extremely lean. Don’t know that it’s blog-worthy, however.

apple_cinn_custard_cake_sliceMy bible study group started up again after a couple of months’ hiatus. We’re studying the book of James. Anyway, I needed a dessert for 10, and this cake just spoke to me. But, caveat here: I didn’t taste it. I asked my guests to tell me in detail about the flavor and texture. There were raves all around from my guests.

The recipe is from the chef, Curtis Stone. I found it on a Australian website, so converted it to our measurements. I didn’t have an orange, so used lemon zest. The apples are drenched in orange liqueur, which keeps them from turning brown while you prepare the cake batter. The cake is baked in a springform pan and when it was finished, and cooled, it was very easy to get out of the pan. The bottom of the cake was extremely moist, so I used my offset spatula to release the cake from the pan bottom and gently slid it off onto the pedestal cake stand (above). Once in place I couldn’t move it to center it. But then, you probably didn’t even notice, right?

My guests told me the apple flavor was very prominent, and that the cake was super-moist. One person couldn’t taste the cinnamon, so I might up that a little bit if I made it again. Also, I added cinnamon to the whipped cream. They also loved the little crispy top (some of the cake batter is reserved, flour added to it and it’s poured over the top). I forgot to sprinkle powdered sugar all over the top when I served it. Oh well. I asked – is this recipe a keeper? They all said in raised voices – YES.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Apple Cinnamon Custard Cake

By: From Curtis Stone (chef)
Serving Size: 10

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 Granny Smith apples — peeled, cored, cut into 8 wedges, then cut into very thin slices
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier — or other orange liqueur
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour — plus 2 tbsp extra
1 cup sugar — plus 1 tbsp extra
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon — divided use
1 cup canola oil
1 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons orange zest — or lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon powdered sugar — sifted
WHIPPED CREAM:
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon icing sugar

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 330°F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with butter.
2. In a medium bowl, toss the apples with Grand Marnier (or Cointreau) to coat, and set aside
3. In another medium bowl, whisk together the 1 1/4 cups of flour, 1 cup of sugar, baking powder, salt and 1/4 tsp of the cinnamon. In a large bowl, whisk together oil, milk, whole eggs, orange zest and vanilla to blend. Whisk dry ingredients into the wet ingredients to form a smooth batter. Be careful not to over-mix. [I used my stand mixer for this.]
4. Transfer 1 cup of the batter to a small bowl and mix in the remaining 2 tbsp flour; set aside. Whisk egg yolks into remaining batter in the large bowl just to blend. Stir in the apples. Transfer the apple batter to prepared pan and, and spread batter into an even layer and press the apples in to submerge them. Pour the reserved batter evenly over the apple batter. In a small bowl, whisk the remaining sugar and cinnamon to blend, and then sprinkle it evenly over the batter.
5. Bake for 50 mins, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and the top is golden brown. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool for 15 mins. Run a knife around the sides of the cake and release the pan sides. Cool cake for about 30 mins to serve warm, or cool completely. Dust with icing sugar.
6. To make whipped cream, in a medium bowl, whisk cream and sugar. To serve, cut cake into wedges and serve with a generous dollop of whipped cream.
Per Serving: 502 Calories; 41g Fat (73.2% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 29g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 82mg Cholesterol; 285mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, Uncategorized, on April 11th, 2019.

Wanna know what SMBC means?  SMBC is Swiss Meringue Butter Cream.

This is a post from Sara.  Please note this recipe takes time but is not difficult.

Sorry for the long delay in getting a blog post up here but I chose a ridiculously complicated dessert to be my first attempt on my own.  What ever made me think I should post a cupcake that includes 3 separate recipes, I’ll never know.

I’ve been baking since I was itty bitty and I’ve never found a chocolate cake this moist or a frosting so good.  I’m never going back to a standard butter cream recipe.  You know, the typical butter, powdered sugar and liquid.  The SMBC is the lightest, fluffiest frosting I’ve ever worked with.  As with all other frostings, you can color it and flavor it but it is best done without liquids.  Colored gels and powdered flavors are best.  The cake is a buttermilk recipe that is now my absolute go to favorite.  I’m very new to Pinterest but found this website Livforcake.com.   The blogger, Olivia, gave me the inspiration for this recipe.  I actually used her buttermilk chocolate cake and her SMBC peanut butter recipe but added the surprise center filling on my own.

The original cake recipe used oil and buttermilk but as I am watching my fat intake, I substituted low fat buttermilk and unsweetened applesauce.  I’ve made the recipe both ways and the original recipe is excellent.  It’s fluffy, moist and very intensely flavored.  However, with the sweetness of the filling and frosting, I don’t mind the change.

There is a real trick to making SMBC (Swiss Meringue Butter Cream).  There is a tips blog page on Olivia’s website that I would mandate you read first if I could grab the link.  So search SMBC on her website for “How to make swiss meringue buttercream”.  The biggest and most important detail is to use metal utensils and bowls and to wipe them down with lemon juice or vinegar before using.

I have a thing for filled cupcakes so this has 3 recipes that make up the cupcake.  If I could suggest, bake the cupcakes beforehand.  Then scoop out the centers (keep for snacks later!) and make the peanut butter filling.  Drop a ball into each cavity.  Then make the frosting.  Assemble and decorate.  I made these for my niece and her soccer team.  She shoots and she SCORES!  Needless to say, they were a big hit.

What’s GOOD:  What’s not to like?  These are moist, decadent cupcakes with a peanut butter surprise and intensely flavored peanut butter frosting.  I love this cake recipe.  I think it’s my new favorite.

What’s NOT:  If you haven’t made a meringue frosting before, it can be intimidating.  As I said, read up on it first and DO NOT skip the acid wipe of your all metal utensils.  I’ve made the SMBC twice now and haven’t had any problems.  The recipe is time consuming, I admit.  But I made the cupcakes Thursday night after work.  Stored them in lidded containers.  Then Friday after work, I scooped out the cupcakes, made the filling and dropped it in.  It probably took me 30 mins to make the frosting.

printer friendly pdf for the cupcakes

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

Adapted from LivForCake.com
Servings: 24

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature
3/4 cup hot water
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350F, line cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
2. Place all dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Stir to combine.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk all wet ingredients (pour water in slowly as not to cook the eggs if very hot.)
4. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix on medium for 2-3 mins. Batter will be very thin.
5. Pour evenly into prepared cupcake trays.
6. Bake until a tester comes out mostly clean 18-22 mins.
7. Cool 10 mins in pans then turn out onto wire rack to cool completely.
8. CUPCAKES: scoop out center of cupcake to make room for filling, if using.

. . .
printer friendly pdf for peanut butter filling

* Exported from MasterCook *

Peanut Butter Filling

Recipe By: Adapted from an old magazine
Serving Size: 28

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
3 tablespoons butter — softened
1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1. Stir together peanut butter and butter.
2. Gradually add sugar, stirring til combined.
3. Shape into balls. Place on wax paper and chill til needed.
Per Serving: 55 Calories; 4g Fat (56.1% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 5g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 3mg Cholesterol; 34mg Sodium.

. . .
printer friendly pdf for SMBC PB Frosting

* Exported from MasterCook *

Peanut Butter SMBC (Swiss Meringue Butter Cream) Frosting

Recipe By: LivForCakes.com

5 large egg whites
1 2/3 cup dark brown sugar lightly packed
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter cubed — room temperature
1/2 cup powdered peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla

1. Place egg whites and dark brown sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk until combined. Ensure there is NO trace of egg yolk.
2. Place bowl over a hot water bath on the stove and whisk constantly until the mixture is hot and no longer grainy to the touch (approx. 3mins). Or registers 160F on a candy thermometer.
3. Place bowl on your stand mixer and whisk on med-high until the meringue is stiff and cooled (the bowl is no longer warm to the touch (approx. 5-10mins)).
4. Slowly add cubed butter and mix until smooth. It may look like it’s curdling at some point. Keep mixing until it comes together.
5. Add powdered peanut butter & vanilla and whip until smooth.
Per Serving: 96 Calories; 0g Fat (0.0% calories from fat); 18g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; 0g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 274mg Sodium.

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