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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 about attending further education 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. I could hardly put it down. 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. You yearn to hug her, comfort her. Yet she finds eventually happiness and peace. A beautiful book worth reading. Was a book club read.

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. If you like Hyde’s novels, for the month of September many of her books are available on Kindle at a very reduced price ($1.99 and $.99 each). Go grab them while they’re available. I just purchased 6 of her books. 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. This took place in the 40s, and at the time no women were ever seen on the showroom floors, but these two pretty young women were the harbinger of equality, though none of that comes into play here. They were “runners,” who whisked orders and money to and fro from the salesMEN to the office. They stood in silence near the elevators on the ground floor and waited for a sale to take place. They lived in cramped quarters. They enjoyed everything NYC had to offer them at the time, and they were wowed by an occasional celebrity sighting. 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. No one can seem to solve them, and those who try also get caught in the crossfire. Finally a man is brought in from back East. That’s where the inception of the FBI comes into play, though there was no FBI then. This is a very interesting read, probably sufficient info to do a book club read. A book everyone should read if you know little (or a lot) about the abominable treatment given to the Native Americans over the last several hundred years. 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? When 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. It tells the tale of a 70ish man, a widower, who has been diagnosed with terminal colon cancer. He’s a retired physician, knows the scenario of death by cancer, and doesn’t want to do it. He decides he’s going to take a bird hunting trip, east of the mountains in Washington State (Guterson writes a lot about his part of the world), with his two dogs, and he’ll commit suicide. He sets up an elaborate ruse with his children and grandchildren, and heads out. All of this, so far, takes place in the first 10 pages of the book. First he has an accident in his car, and that sets off a cavalcade of incidents. You’ll learn a whole lot about flora and fauna (one of Guterson’s writing attributes). You’ll learn a lot about apple and pear orchards, which abound in eastern Washington (I’ve been there, it’s beautiful, pastoral and full of fruit). Flashbacks of his life story are interspersed throughout, his growing up on an apple farm, meeting his wife, his service in WWII, their reuniting after the war and the life they had. You’ll learn some about his cancer pain, the grief of his wife’s death 5 years prior, and about his resolve to end it all. Please don’t NOT read this because  you’ll think it’s depressing. It is and it isn’t. It’s so much more for the better. And I just read, this book is being made into a movie.

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. Then he discovers that there is a lot more to know and understand about this elderly little lady down the hall and he begins a journey to try to find someone for her, the Luis Velez of the title. If you want to use coming-of-age to describe this, that’s partly true. He learns all about himself, the abilities he didn’t know he had, the kindness that lives within him that he never realized was there, and the friends he makes along the way who make some life-changing differences in his young life. He discovers he has some gifts that he can give to others, something most teenagers don’t understand. I can’t recommend this book highly enough – it’s a bit of a tear-jerker, but for every good reason and moral character trait described in the book. It’s there.

Kristin Hannah is quite an author. She’s written upwards of 20 books, I think. This one, Magic Hour: A Novel is another very mesmerizing read. I could hardly put it down. A young, 6-year old child is found in a small town on the Olympic Peninsula. She’s mute and frightened beyond reason. And she seems not to understand English. A psychiatrist is brought to town to try to unravel the mystery and to “reach” the child. I don’t want to spoil the story, but know that the whole subject of nature (biology) vs. nurture comes into play and will keep you hanging onto your seat until the last few pages.

Ever heard of Barbara Pym? I knew the name, but hadn’t ever read any of her work. She was an English author (deceased now), having penned several books. I think she was an inveterate spinster, and in this book, Excellent Women she wrote about a small village community in England with the humdrum, day to day life, but she wrote with such interesting detail. I thought I might be bored to tears reading it, as it describes a 31-year old woman, considered a spinster in the time (1950s), and the book is about her rather boring life with new neighbors who move into her small home (2 units, sharing a bathroom), the local vicar, his sister, and a myriad of other ladies of the parish. Yet you get caught up in the very minor intrigue of the deteriorating marriage of the couple in the building, the love life of the vicar, and the annual planning for a jumble sale at the local church. This book is considered Pym’s best. I loved the book. I highlighted a bunch of phrases and sentences (I will be doing a book review in one of my book clubs). It wasn’t boring at all, and was entertaining right up to the last page!

Did you ever watch Sandra Lee on the Food Network? This was in the early days of the network, and I did watch her some, although her cooking style didn’t mesh much with mine, since I’m a bit of a make-things-from-scratch kind of girl. But then, I don’t make my own mayo, or jam anymore. And I understand her philosophy, making it easier for busy women to feed their families and juggle a busy life. I’d never thought about reading her memoir. But then, a friend highly recommended I do so. I found a used copy online, and read Made From Scratch: A Memoir. She had a very, very hard young life. Her mother? Well, she shouldn’t have even been a mother. Sandra was the eldest and from a very early age she took care of all of her younger siblings. She was badly mistreated and nearly raped by a family member. Her grandmother Lorraine was her favorite person from the get-go and Sandra took care of her grandmother in her waning years. Once Sandra was old enough she left home and went to college for 3 years, then her entrepreneurial spirit just took over. She learned by doing in every job she’s ever had, and I have to admire her tremendously for her accomplishments. She made money, then lost it, found another niche, made money, then lost it. Yet she’s got the kind of grit that we should all emulate. There are 2 recipes in the book. Sandra is a Christian, and a paragraph that really gripped me was at the very end: “Grace has become one of my favorite words. To me it means learning to balance the good days with the bad. Grace is about being proud of yourself, your actions, your life, what you stand for, and the way you give back [Sandra is a huge philanthropist]. Its’ being generous when someone hurts you; it’s knowing when and how to react. It’s knowing that someone you’re not fond of today might turn out to be the only person who puts his or her hand out tomorrow just when you’re about to step in front of a moving bus. Grace is offering understanding and acceptance when the rest of the world does not.” This book isn’t great literature; yet I’m very glad I read it. She is an inspiration.

The book Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist) by Min Jin Lee had been recommended to me by several friends. Finally got around to reading it. It’s a novel about a family of Koreans living in Japan and covers several decades, beginning in the 1940s, I believe. They’re poor. Dirt poor, yet the women just get themselves back up and work. The husbands in the story have problems, health and otherwise. But what you see here is work, and work and more work just to keep above water. You’ve probably read about how poorly Koreans are treated in Japan – they’re kind of thought of as scum of the earth. I don’t know if this phenomena is still true today, but it apparently was even up until a couple of decades ago. As  you read this book, you’ll find yourself rooting for various family members as they progress in life. A fateful decision is made by one that reverberates throughout her life and those of her children. Pachinko (the machines and the gaming economy that runs because of it) is thought of as part of the underbelly of Japanese culture. I remember seeing the pachinko machines when I visited Japan back in the 1960s. So the book infers, much of pachinko is even controlled by a kind of Japanese mafia and certainly has no status if you work in the pachinko arena. Wealth, yes. Status, no. Very worth reading, even though it’s tough going part of the way. This isn’t a “happy” book. But still worth knowing and reading about the subject. Reading the author’s afterword at the end was very revealing and interesting.

Also read An American Marriage (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Tayari Jones. The book is set in the south with a young, well-educated, middle-class couple and suddenly the husband is accused and convicted of rape (that he didn’t commit). The book is not about the justice system or his wrongful conviction. Not at all. It’s about the relationship, the husband, wife, and then the 3rd person who inserts himself into the mix. Much of this story is told through the letters that Roy and Celestial write each other during and after his incarceration. Jones recreates the couple’s grief, despair and anger until they finally work their way to acceptance, but maybe not how you would expect it. This is complicated emotional territory navigated with succinctness and precision, making what isn’t said as haunting as the letters themselves.  Some of the above (italics) came from the New York Times’ book review.

Recently finished Sally Field’s memoir (autobiography) called In Pieces. I’ve always admired her and her acting, but never knew much about her. I remember when she was involved with Burt Reynolds, but knew nothing about her dysfunctional coming of age. I think she’s a consummate actress, and was awed by her performance in Norma Rae, and also with her role as Abraham Lincoln’s wife.  She wrote this book herself, with help from a writer’s workshop and with some good advice from various other writers. It’s very well written. She spends a lot of time discussing the very young years and her perverted step-father. But the over-arching person in her life was her mother, be what she may as far as being a good/bad mother. I really liked the book; really enjoyed reading about how Sally throws herself into her tv and film roles over her life. And what a defining moment Norma Rae was in her career. Well worth reading if you enjoy movie star memoirs.

If you want grit, well, read Kristen Hannah’s newest book, The Great Alone: A Novel. It’s a gripping novel about a young girl whose family moves to Alaska when her father is gifted a small plot of land with a ramshackle cabin on it that’s barely fit for habitation. The family survives only because some of the townspeople offer to help them learn how to live through an Alaskan winter, which is not easy. The girl’s father is a tyrant and a wife-beater as well. Some pages were hard to read. Surviving on the land with nearly no funds is an arduous task in the best of times, but doubly so when you’re dealing with an Alaskan winter which lasts about 9 months of the year. I don’t want to spoil the story by telling you too many details. The book touches on some very current social issues and is so worth reading. Although difficult at times, as I said. But I’m very glad I did. I think it would make for a good book club read – lots of survival issues to discuss, let alone the other social problems that ensue. But there’s also love, which makes it worth the read.

Recently finished reading a book for one of my book clubs. I’m interested to find out who in that group recommended this book, Tangerine: A Novel by Christine Mangan. Had it not been selected for my club, I wouldn’t ever have picked it up. Most of it takes place in Tangiers, in the 1950s. Alice and John have moved there, newlyweds, when Lucy Mason shows up. Lucy is Alice’s former college roommate. Lucy simply moves in. There’s bad blood between them following the death of Alice’s beau during their college years. Lucy, who might appear as a very sensible woman, has a dark physical and mental obsession with her “friend.” Is it horror? Not really by strict definition. Is it a mystery? Not quite, although there are several murders that take place. Chapters jump between Alice’s voice and Lucy’s voice and you understand the mental fragility of Alice, and this consuming obsession Lucy has for her friend. I’m NOT recommending this book, but I did finish it just because of my book club choosing this very strange book.

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.

One of my book clubs occasionally reads a kind of edgy book. This is one of them. By Mohsin Hamid, Exit West: A Novel is a book set in an age not dissimilar to our own and in current time, but something bad has happened in the world. Something never divulged, although symptoms of a civil war are mentioned. A unmarried couple, Nadia and Saeed, are given the opportunity (as others are, as well) to go through a door (this is the exit part of the title) and to another place in the world – it takes but a second – to go through the special door. They go to England (London), to a palatial mansion. Sometimes the power grid is sketchy. Another door. And yet another. And finally to Marin County (north of San Francisco). You follow along with the ups and downs of the chaste relationship of the two, this couple from a house to living on the streets. And the eventual dissolution of the relationship too. I wasn’t enamored with the book, but after listening to the review of it and hearing others talk about it, I suppose there’s more to this story than it might appear. Hope is the word that comes to mind. The book is strange, but it won the Los Angeles Times book award in 2017. It’s received lots of press. It made for some very interesting discussion at our book club meeting.

The Last Letter from Your Lover: A Novel by JoJo Moyes. Story: Jennifer Stirling wakes up in hospital, having had a traumatic car accident. She’s introduced to her husband, of whom she has no recollection, and is sent home with him eventually, to a life she neither remembers or embraces readily. But this is the life she was raised to have, so surely it must be worth living, underneath the strange, muted tones of her daily existence. Jennifer goes through the motions, accepts what she is told is her life and all seems to bob along well enough, except when she finds a letter that isn’t her husband’s handwriting, and is clearly a link to someone she has been involved with, but whom? London, France, Africa and America all come into play in this story of a woman piecing back together her life in effort to understand what she has lost, and what she threw away. There is a bit of a time-hop from 1964 to 2003. . . from a reviewer on amazon.  I loved this book from page one to the end. There’s some bit of mystery and you so get into the head of Jennifer Stirling. I could hardly put it down. Great read.

Francine Rivers, an author relatively new to me, but much admired, is most known for this: Mark of the Lion : A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, As Sure As the Dawn (Vol 1-3) It’s a trilogy. The first 2 books are about Hadassah, a young woman in the time of the Roman Empire. When Jerusalem was overrun and destroyed, the Christians still alive were sent off and away, separated and derided and abused. Hadassah was one of them. She’s a slave to a wealthy family and it takes 2 of the books to read before the son of the family finally realizes that he’s in love with Hadassah. If  you’re a Christian, you’ll learn a whole lot more about the time following Christ’s crucifixion, about the lot of the struggling Christian community. The 3rd book in the trilogy is about a gladiator who is part of book 1 and 2, but not a main character. You’ll learn about his life too, after he regains his freedom from the fighting ring and the battle of his soul. These books are a fabulous read. Can’t say enough good things about them all. I’ve never been a huge fan of old-world Roman Empire reading, but this one was altogether different. Very worth reading.

Amy Belding Brown wrote this book: Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America, a true accounting in 1676, of Mary Rowlandson, a woman who was captured by Native Americans.  Even before she was captured on a winter day of violence and terror, she sometimes found herself in conflict with her rigid Puritan community. Now, her home destroyed, her children lost to her, she has been sold into the service of a powerful woman tribal leader, made a pawn in the ongoing bloody struggle between English settlers and native people. Battling cold, hunger, and exhaustion, Mary witnesses harrowing brutality but also unexpected kindness. To her confused surprise, she is drawn to her captors’ open and straightforward way of life, a feeling further complicated by her attraction to a generous, protective English-speaking native known as James Printer. The story is riveting, and perplexing once she is traded back to her home. You’ll see a different side to the Indian problem back then and find yourself conflicted. An excellent read.

Taylor Caldwell was a prolific writer, and one I read when I was younger. She died in 1980, and this book, her last, Answer As a Man certainly delivers as her others did. All his life, Jason Garrity has had to battle intolerance and injustice in his quest for power, money, and love. His new hotel will give him financial security, the means to support a loving family and become an upstanding citizen. When family secrets and financial greed combine to destroy his dreams, his rigid moral convictions are suddenly brought into question. . . from Goodreads. Caldwell believed the banking industry was way too powerful, and often took aim at it, as she did in this book. It chronicles the life of a very poor, impoverished Irish immigrant to the U.S. He was an upstanding citizen, God-fearing, but maybe naive in some respects. Good book if you enjoy very deep character study.

Another book by Diney Costeloe, Miss Mary’s Daughter. When a young women is suddenly left with no family and no job or income, she’s astounded to learn that she’s actually a granddaughter of a “grand” family in Ye Olde England. She’s very independent (at least I thought so, for the time period), but is willing to investigate this new family of hers. There are many twists and turns – is she going to inherit the family home – or is the man who has been caring for the home and his daughter the logical inheritors. There’s a villain who nearly sweeps her off her feet, much intrigue from many characters. Well developed plot with a happy ending. A good read.

Celeste Ng is a hot new author. I read another of her books (see below) but this time I read Little Fires Everywhere. There are so many various characters and plots in this book, as in her others. This book focuses on a Chinese baby abandoned at a fire station and the subsequent court battle when the single mother surfaces six months later to try to reclaim her daughter from the family in the process of adopting her. Emotions well up, waxing and waning on both sides of the issue. You may even find yourself changing your own mind about the right or wrong of a child raised with a natural-born mother (albeit late to the raising) or the mother the child has known since near birth. Ng likes to write books with lots of grit and thorny issues. Although a good read, I liked Everything I Never Told You better than this one.

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright. Oh my. This book has so many layers: (1) the young, impoverished couple and their infant son who live, literally, in a dump in Cambodia and about the precarious structure, if you can even call it that, that comprises their “house” in the midst and perched on top of trash; (2) the woman who collects the rent (hence the title and yes, people have to PAY to live there); (3) the young son’s chronic illness; (4) how they make a living out of collecting and selling trash; and (4) the life saving grace and wisdom imparted by characters in the book as the young mother begins to learn to read. If you decide to read this book, please don’t stop at about page 15-20, thinking you just don’t know if you want to read about this. Please continue. It’s so worth it. Have a highlighter pen in your hand because you’ll find so many quotes you will want to remember. Believe it or not, there is also quite a bit in this about literature.

C.J. Box’s book The Disappeared (A Joe Pickett Novel). I just love Box’s novels. They take place in present day semi-wild west, and chronicle the fish and game warden, Joe Pickett, as he unravels another crime in his territory. A woman has disappeared, and the governor has asked him to figure it out. He does, but the tale meanders  through multiple layers of intriguing story. His books are riveting. Men and women enjoy his books – so if you have a fellow in your life or family that would enjoy an intriguing book (this is not espionage) then gift him one of Box’s books.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. Rivers is a prodigious writer of Christian fiction, and I’d never read anything by her until now. As I write this, I’ve already read this, another one (below) and just purchased the Kindle trilogy called Mark of the Lion (Vol 1-3) that I haven’t yet started. (Two of my friends have said the trilogy is her best.) Redeeming Love details the fictional story of a godly man, Michael Hosea, forging his way in the era of the Gold Rush. He’s “driven” to rescue a beautiful prostitute who lives and works her trade in a nearby town. The entire book is about the story, the rescue, and it parallels a bit of scripture about Hosea who rescues a prostitute names Gomer. You get into the heads of both Hosea and the prostitute, named Angel. We read this for one of my book groups. A great read.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. A

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. W

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 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)

* Exported from MasterCook *

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)

* Exported from MasterCook *

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.

Posted in Desserts, on February 16th, 2019.

caramel_apple_rose_final

So quick and pretty – just 15 mins from start to oven

This is a post from Sara: The recipe is from Phillis Carey.  I attended a class a few months ago and am now on her mailing list.  I saw these gems on her Valentine’s Day email and I thought; I can do that!  They are so simple and quick; just 3 main ingredients.  I had them ready for the oven in less than 15 mins.  I baked them while finishing the rest of dinner and served them warm with vanilla ice cream.

apple_rose_tart_stripsThe puff pastry is folded in thirds so just cut the thawed pastry on the crease lines then each third in half to get 6 equal strips.  I used a silicone pastry brush to spread the caramel sauce from end to end. The microwaving of the apple slices is imperative because they must be soft to roll.  Then line the strip of pastry with the apple slices skin side up 1/4” above the top of the pastry overlapping a bit.  Fold the bottom half of the pastry over the apple slices leaving skin side exposed.  Then roll from end to end forming a rose.

apple_rose_tart_before_bakingPlace in muffin tin and continue with remaining strips.  Sprinkle with course sugar and bake.  I drizzled more caramel sauce on top and served it with vanilla ice cream.  My family just loved them.

What’s Good: I love how quickly I put this together.  Valentine’s Day was a weekday this year and I was able to put this together after work no problem.  I also think they are pretty and look difficult to make.

What’s Not:  There is some time to allow for the puff pastry to thaw.  Also I found the Smucker’s brand of caramel sauce not intense enough.  I think I’d try the Mrs. Richardson’s Butterscotch Caramel or maybe Dulce De Leche for a more robust flavor.

printer friendly pdf

* Exported from MasterCook *

Caramel Apple Rose Tart

Recipe By: Phillis Carey’s recipe
Serving Size: 6

1 apple — Honeycrisp, Pink Lady or Gala work best
6 tablespoons caramel sauce — purchased and extra for garnish
1 sheet frozen puff pastry sheet — thawed
Coarse sugar
Vanilla ice cream

1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Cut apple in quarters and core. Then slice very thinly
3. Arrange apple slices on plate and microwave on HIGH for 45 seconds until soft and pliable, cool
4. Cut puff pastry into 6 equal strips. Brush each strip with 1T caramel sauce. Place apple slices lengthwise with skin edge up along the edge of the dough, sticking 1/4″ above the edge of the dough and slightly overlapping. Fold bottom half of dough over the apple slices leaving the skin edge exposed. Starting at one end, roll the dough up in a spiral to form a rose shaped pastry.
5. Generously butter or spray muffin tin and transfer a rose to each cup, apple edge up. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 30-40mins.
6. Cool in pan for 5 mins. Remove from pan and cool on rack. Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream and drizzled with more caramel sauce.
Per Serving 294 Calories; 16g Fat (47.7% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 36g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; trace Cholesterol; 175mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on February 6th, 2019.

apple_blueb_cobbler

Lovely dessert. Apples and blueberries.

Made this dessert last night for my bible study group. I ate a couple of bites of it, trying not to eat the cobbler part, just fruit. Thought it was great, and my group gave me raves.

apple_blueb_cobber_side

I used Envy apples, or were they Gala. Can’t remember what I bought, other than they were the red/yellow sweet, crisp type apples. They held their shape well, and were super sweet tasting. I adapted the recipe from Marie Rayner’s blog, The English Kitchen. I used different and more apples, more blueberries. The topping is easy but doesn’t really cover the fruit altogether. Just enough to kind of hold it together. The orange zest gives it an elusive flavor – nobody could identify it!

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Apple and Blueberry Cobbler

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from The English Kitchen blog.
Serving Size: 8

2 pounds apples — use sweet, crisp variety, peeled, quartered, cored, cut into thick slices
2/3 cup blueberries — fresh
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon water
TOPPING:
4 ounces unsalted butter — at room temperature (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
4 ounces self-rising flour — a scant cup
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
the grated zest of one small orange
powdered sugar for dusting on top
whipped cream for serving

NOTE: If you don’t have self-rising flour, use regular all-purpose and add a teaspoon of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
1. Preheat the oven to 350*F.
2. Place the apples in the bottom of a 9×9 or larger baking dish, at least 2 inches deep. Add blueberries on top, then sprinkle the sugar over top along with the water. Bake for about 10 minutes while you make the topping.
3. TOPPING: Using a mixer, add softened butter and sugar and beat for several minutes until mixture is creamy and light. Add eggs, self-rising flour and continue beating until no flour streaks appear. Add orange juice and zest and mix in gently. Remove the fruit from the oven and spoon the thick batter evenly over top. Return to the oven and cook for 40 to 50 minutes until golden brown and the top springs back when lightly touched.
4. Dust with powdered sugar and serve warm with whipped cream, lightly sweetened.
Per Serving (oops, wrong as it served about 10 people, original recipe said served 6): 428 Calories; 18g Fat (36.1% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 66g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 112mg Cholesterol; 267mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on November 20th, 2018.

apple_gingerbread_cake_whole

So pretty. So fall. So apple-y. And also really tasty.

Every few weeks I need to either buy or make some kind of dessert for the evening bible study group when they meet at my house. I almost bought something this time as I was really cramming a lot into one day. As it happened, we had heavy winds in my neck of the woods, and they were so severe they blew down power lines in lots of places. Near me, obviously, as I had a power outage for about 14-16 hours. The night and morning that the winds blew I was driving from NorCal to home, so I missed most of them. But I arrived to find that the power was out. Thank goodness my security gate was open or I’d have had a heck of a time trying to get TO my house. I bought groceries, unpacked, but couldn’t do laundry, or watch tv, or bake. So I went out to dinner (salad) and got home just at dusk and found my flashlight. I read. I played with my kitty. I read some more. Decided that I really couldn’t do my bible study homework by flashlight. Went to bed early. By morning the power had been restored. I baked. Did laundry, put the suitcase away and went through the mail.

apple_gingerbread_cake_sliceSince it’s fall, well, my mind turns to apples. And this recipe, oddly enough, calls for red skinned apples, leaving the skins on. I bought Gala I think it was. They’re BIG apples, so I only used 2. My guests suggested that I should use more apples. The recipe called for a pound, and I used 1.25 pounds (that was 2 apples). So I’ve upped the apples by a little in the recipe below. But otherwise, I’d stick to the recipe as listed.

Since I’m not eating desserts these days, I had to rely on my guests to give me a critique of the cake. They said “mmmm.” They said moist, could really taste the ginger (there are 2 T of freshly grated ginger in the cake). They liked the spices in it. And they really liked how pretty it was. I served it with whipped cream.

First I made a small amount of caramel (brown sugar, butter and a little water) which was poured into the bottom of a springform pan. Then I cooked the slices of apple in butter (just a little) which is done in 2 batches, and those translucent slices are fanned out on top of the caramel, doubling up a little bit. Then the cake batter is made (molasses, maple syrup spices, eggs, the freshly grated ginger, flour, etc.) and lastly you add in a little bit of baking soda and water. Pour it all over the apples. THEN, you pour 1/2 cup heavy cream all over the top of the batter. I don’t know what that accomplished, really, as it just sat there. I did spread it out a bit, and most of it was absorbed into the cake eventually, during the baking. Once baked, it sat for 15 minutes to cool a bit, then you run a knife (I used a plastic spatula) around the outside edge to loosen it, then you remove the springform and cool some more. Then I upended it onto a platter and let it cool completely. Some sweetened whipped cream finished it off. Serve.

What’s GOOD: the comments come from my guests as I didn’t have any of it . . . they said it was wonderful. They loved the ginger, the spices and the apples. They said use more apples. The center of the cake wasn’t quite done, so it sunk a little bit – gave it a pudding like texture in the middle, they said. So make sure the center is cooked through before taking it out of the oven. The recipe said a 10” springform. I don’t have one, so used a 9” and added about 10 minutes of baking time. Not quite enough, I guess.

What’s NOT: a few more steps than some – making caramel, cooking the apples, then making them look pretty in the pan. Then the liquids, then the dry stuff, mixed.

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

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Apple Gingerbread Cake with Cream

Recipe By: Bon Appetit, 10/2016
Serving Size: 10

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar — (packed) divided
1 1/2 pounds apples — Honeycrisp or other sweet, red skinned apples, unpeeled, very thinly sliced, seeds removed, divided
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
2 large eggs — room temperature
2 tablespoons ginger — fresh, finely grated peeled
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda — dissolved in 1 T hot water
1/2 cup heavy cream — to pour on cake batter
1/2 cup heavy cream — whipped for serving

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 10″ springform pan and line bottom with a parchment round; butter parchment. Heat 1 T butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 2 T water in a large skillet over medium, stirring constantly, until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved. Cook, without stirring but swirling skillet often, until large bubbles that are slow to pop form, about 2 minutes. Pour caramel into prepared pan and tilt pan to evenly coat bottom.
2, Melt 1 T butter in same skillet over medium heat; add half of apples and toss to separate. Cook, tossing often, until apples are softened and almost translucent, about 4 minutes. Repeat process with another 1 T butter and remaining apples. Let apples sit until cool enough to handle, then arrange over caramel in overlapping layers. Set pan aside.
3. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg in a large bowl to combine; set aside. Heat molasses, maple syrup, remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar, and remaining 1/2 cup butter in saucepan over very low heat, stirring constantly, until butter is melted and mixture is smooth. Set aside for a couple of minutes until mixture cools slightly. Whisk in eggs and ginger. Stir baking soda into 1 T very hot water in a small bowl until dissolved, then whisk into molasses mixture. Whisk molasses mixture into reserved dry ingredients and scrape batter over apples, spreading evenly. Evenly drizzle 1/2 cup cream over batter spreading if needed to outer edges.
4. Place cake on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and bake until center is firm to the touch and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 35–45 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cake cool in pan 15 minutes. Run a paring knife around the sides of cake to loosen, then remove the sides of pan and invert cake onto rack. Carefully remove pan and peel away parchment (apples might stick, so work slowly). Let cool completely.
5. Slice cake into wedges and serve drizzled with more cream. Cake can be baked 1 day ahead. Store tightly covered at room temperature. To revive apples, reheat cake slightly in a microwave and brush top with maple syrup.
Per Serving: 472 Calories; 22g Fat (40.9% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 67g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 106mg Cholesterol; 489mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on November 4th, 2018.

deep_choc_torte

Pure chocolate heaven. This was likely the BEST flourless chocolate cake (torte) I’ve ever had. Does that motivate you to try making it? It’s VERY easy.

The leftovers of this are in my freezer. I simply HAD to package them up and put them away or I’d have been eating a little wedge of this every day until it was gone. As it is, I have 2 servings in 2 packages. Perfect for when my cousin comes to visit and he’ll be happy that I’ve made something for him that’s GF.

There are relatively few ingredients in this cake/torte – dark chocolate, eggs, sugar, Kahlua and heavy cream. That’s it. And you don’t have to whip up egg whites, though you do have to whip the cream to soft peaks. All done in a bowl, with a hand mixer if you want to. First, the chocolate is melted in a bowl sitting over slowly simmering water. You need to butter a springform pan and line is with parchment and then butter the parchment.

Then you mix up the eggs, sugar and Kahlua (or other liqueur, or vanilla) until it’s thick – that does take several minutes. Fold in the heavy cream that’s been beaten to soft peaks, then pour it carefully into the springform pan. Bake for 40 minutes or until the center is just barely set (still slightly jiggly). Cool it to room temp, or to a warm temp for sure. Dust top with cocoa powder and garnish it with some sweetened whipped cream and berries. And a little mint sprig if you have one. I convinced myself that I wasn’t consuming all that much more chocolate/sugar than I do daily with my 1-ounce portion of chocolate. I ate a tiny wedge. Oh my.

What’s GOOD: well, if you’re a chocoholic, then this will satisfy every one of your chocolate buttons. It is a dark chocolate – although I suppose if you’re a milk chocolate person you might be able to make it with milk chocolate – not sure about that as there is milk contained in the chocolate which might change the chemistry. But nevertheless, the finished cake does sink some in the middle (which is normal) and you’ll serve very small servings. This cake will serve at least 12 or even more. It’s ultra-rich. So tender it’s like a feather.

What’s NOT: I don’t want to read the nutrition, or lack thereof. But in a small wedge, as it can be served, it shouldn’t be too awful for you!

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

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Deep Chocolate Torte

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter cooking class, 2018
Serving Size: 10-12

1 pound dark chocolate — 60% cacao, chopped
6 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Kahlua — Grand Marnier or other liqueur
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup berries — optional
1 cup heavy cream — whipped & sweetened
Cocoa for dusting
Mint sprigs for garnish

1. Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl or the top of a double boiler over barely simmering water and allow to melt completely.
2. Preheat the oven to 350º. Generously butter a 9″ cake or springform pan. Cut a 9″ round of parchment paper and press it over the bottom of the pan. Butter the parchment.
3. Beat the eggs, sugar, and liqueur until very thick. Slowly stir in the melted chocolate.
4. Whip the cream to soft peaks and gently fold into the chocolate mixture. Carefully transfer the batter to the pan.
5. Bake for 40 minutes or until a straw or cake tester inserted into the torte at least 2 to 4 inches from the side comes out clean. The center should be just set; do not overbake.
6. Let cool to room temperature. The center will sink, which is normal. Remove from the pan, and peel off the liner. It is best served with a simple dusting of cocoa; garnish with fresh berries and a mint sprig, if desired. May also garnish with a spoon full of sweetened, whipped cream.
Per Serving: 460 Calories; 34g Fat (63.7% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 37g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 192mg Cholesterol; 65mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on October 19th, 2018.

10_minute_lime_cracker_pie

When I read this recipe, I knew I’d be making it soon. A 10-minute dessert? Yes, I’m in.

My evening bible study group has started up again after taking a hiatus for the summer. We kind of abide by the traditional Sept-June school year rotation. I ended up hosting the first two weeks and now we’re trading off amongst all of our homes. So I needed dessert. The first week I made a peach cobbler. An old recipe from my mother’s 3×5 card file. But I didn’t like it that much, so am not posting it here. But the second week I’d read about this lime cracker pie at Food 52 and just knew it’d be something I’d try.

lime_cracker_pie_ingredientsThe old-fashioned dessert that uses lemon juice and sweetened condensed milk in a graham cracker crust is updated here using lime juice instead, and layering the rich, creamy mixture with Ritz crackers. I used Trader Joe’s version called Golden Rounds. There at left you can see the ingredients. My limes were big enough that I only used 5, I think it was, to yield 1/2 cup of juice.

First, get out the ceramic or glass dish you’ll use. A 9×9 pan isn’t big enough, so use a ceramic dish larger than that. Meanwhile, you use a big bowl to combine the Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk (not evaporated milk – recipe won’t work with that) and 2 cups of heavy cream. Mix that up with a whisk for a few stirs, then you add in the lime juice and zest. Stir some more and within about 45 seconds the mixture begins to thicken. The lime juice causes a reaction somehow (I don’t know the actual chemistry of it) and it becomes a pudding-like texture.

assembling_lime_cracker_pieScoop out about a cup of the cream into the dish, spread it around, then gently add the crackers all over. See my photo at right. That’s one layer. Just keep layering. (If I did this again, I’d use a smaller dish than the one you see here – it was just slightly too big, in my opinion – it is 11 inches long). End up with a layer of cream on the top.

lime_cracker_pie_completeMAKE AHEAD: This dessert needs at least 2 hours, or preferably overnight refrigeration. What happens is the cream is absorbed into the crackers and it creates a kind-of cake layer. Not exactly, but close. The only thing to do before serving is to grate a bit more lime zest on top. It doesn’t need any other embellishments.

What’s GOOD: well, 10 minutes to make it? It might have taken me 15, but oh my, so easy. The flavor is piquant – the acid from the lime juice mixes with the sweet of the condensed milk. Sublime. Oh, pun there! I ate about 4 bites (quality control, you know) and sent all the rest of it home with my friends so I wouldn’t be tempted.

What’s NOT: it’s very rich. Full of fat, obviously. High calorie. But oh-so easy!

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

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Ten-Minute Lime Cracker Pie

Recipe By: J. Kenji López-Alt, at Food52
Serving Size: 10

2 cans sweetened condensed milk — 14-ounce/396ml cans
2 cups heavy cream — (470g)
1 tablespoon lime zest — finely grated, plus more for serving
1/2 cup lime juice — (120g) freshly squeezed
10 ounces Ritz crackers — (285g) from about 3 sleeves

1. Whisk together the condensed milk and heavy cream in a large bowl until combined. Add the lime zest and juice and whisk until thickened, about 1 minute.
2. Spread 1 cup (240ml) of the condensed milk mixture on the bottom of a deep-dish pie plate, an 10-inch (28cm) oval casserole, or a similar large shallow dish. Top with a single layer of Ritz crackers. Repeat, alternating layers of filling and crackers, until the dish is full, finishing with a layer of filling. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight—the longer you wait, the more the crackers will soften and meld with the filling. Serve cold, zesting more fresh lime over the top, if you like.
Per Serving: 504 Calories; 30g Fat (51.9% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 54g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 86mg Cholesterol; 346mg Sodium.

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