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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.

Recently finished 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.

Also finished Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. About a dysfunctional family, through and through. I picked this up from amazon from someone who read the book, named “McReader,” and she says: “Set in the 70s, the story follows a Chinese American blended family in Ohio. When Lydia [the daughter] is found floating in the lake, her family is forced to analyze what put her there. Was it pressure from her family to succeed? Was it pressure to fit in? Was it a crime of passion or convenience? I was spellbound reading the last half of this book. I loved each flawed family member, especially Hannah,. While the story went where I hoped it would go, I was not disappointed at all with the progression. It was also quite insightful on the prejudices that society had about Chinese Americans still during that timeframe and how careful parents have to be to put their dreams onto their children.” Such a good book and definitely worth reading. Would be a good book club read. You’ll be hearing more from this author. Am currently reading her next novel, Little Fires Everywhere.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant. A very, very intriguing book. The book is written from the voice of a Jewish grandmother as she tells her granddaughter the saga of her life starting about 1910, who struggles with her own individuality, with her domineering mother who never says a kind word to her. It’s certainly a coming-of-age story as she grows up, finds a job, makes friends, joins a literary girls club, moves out, but still suffers under her mother’s thumb and tongue. She becomes a reporter on a local newspaper, which opens her eyes to more of the world than she ever knew. She finally meets the right man (of course!) and she shares the stories about her life, and her friends and family members as she grows up, giving some sage advice along the way. Part of the time she’s talking to herself – to her young self  (really wanting to tell young Addie to keep on, forgive herself for her perceived transgressions, to live life, and experience the world).

One of the best books I’ve read in a long time – 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.

As soon as I finished the above book I promptly visited my church library and found a whole shelf of Rivers’ books, and grabbed one called The Atonement Child. This book takes place in the 1980s or 90s, about a young college student who is raped. She was engaged to be married, was a stellar student. The book chronicles what happens to her when she discovers she is pregnant from the rape. Every possible thing goes wrong in her life. I don’t want to spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it, but I couldn’t put it down. I ended up spending a good part of a day plowing through it. You hear her inner voice (I’m guessing this is a common thread in Rivers’ books) from a Christian perspective. Lots of meaty issues to discuss in a book club if your group would be interested and willing to talk about rape, abortion, adoption and the thorny issues surrounding all of those things, but with a Christian bent, for sure.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen. It’s kind of amazing how many and varied plot lines can be created from events of WWII. This is another one, about a current day woman who finds papers in the attic, after her father’s death, with references to “the child.” She never knew her father could have had another child – could she have a step-sibling somewhere? Her father she knew, had been shot down over Italy, but he never talked much about it. But of course, she must go to Italy to find out about this “child.” The book flips back and forth from this daughter on the search, to her father during the war, all of it taking place in a very small town in Tuscany. It’s about the varied people she meets who want her to go away and not dredge up anything about the war years (are they hiding something, you question), about how much she loves the landscape, and some of the people. And about the intense love affair between the injured pilot and a caring woman of the village. Very charming story. I could almost smell the flowers, taste the olives, hear the bees flitting, and loved the prose about the simple meals that were described. I really enjoyed the book. Perhaps not enough meat for a book club read, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy reading it nonetheless.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Almost a page turner. When one uses the phrase “coming of age,” it usually means (I think) love and loss/boyfriend/girlfriend, and in this case it’s somewhat that way. When Ethan, a 17-year old boy and his mother come home unexpectedly to find dad and his young secretary in a compromising position, all hell breaks loose. Separation happens instantly and just as his father moves out, his mother has to go take care of her aging mother. Ethan’s too young to be left in the NYC apartment alone, so Mom sends son to the father who is escaping from the world in Wyoming, living in a primitive A-frame house, and continuing his daily 20+ mile running journeys. Ethan and his father are barely speaking. They live in the middle of nowhere. Ethan feels betrayed by his father in every possible way, and somewhat by his mother for forcing him to live with his father for a temporary period. Then his father doesn’t return one day from his run. The authorities do a cursory search, but they are under the impression the dad wants to “get lost” on purpose. Ethan, although he thinks he doesn’t care, really does. What happens next is best left to you reading this book. Very interesting people (kind of loners) enter the picture and off they go to search. So worth reading.

The Girl With No Name by Diney Costelhoe. What a good book. Perhaps you’ve read before about the huge numbers of German refugee children who were sent to England before Hitler closed down any exits. This is a novel about one particular young girl, who is devastated when her mother puts her on one of the boats. She ends up in London, in an orphanage kind of place, and is eventually placed with a childless couple. She speaks no English. They speak no German, but they manage soon enough. Lisa (who eventually becomes Charlotte) is so homesick. She’s bullied at school, because most people and children don’t want any Germans there. A boy steps up to protect her, and as she grows up, she’s attracted to him. She shouldn’t be – he’s also German and from her own home town. He’s not a good match for her. You live with her through the blitz during all those war years and during one attack, she’s badly injured and loses her memory (and no ID on her). Through a series of mishaps she ends up in a village far from London, with a spinster woman who does eventually come to love her very much – they name her Charlotte and Charlotte she becomes. She goes to school there, still longing, though, for her mother and brother and her London foster family too. Then when she’s 16 she returns to London to help at the orphanage where she was originally placed and tries to find her foster parents. The story goes on from there, with the boy/man who “wants” her, the bad boy, and a good boy/man she befriends in the village in the country. Eventually she regains her memory. SUCH a good read.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee. If you, like me, know little about North Korea and how it came to be what it is today, you’ve got to read this book. It’s a memoir written by a young woman who escaped from North Korea about 9 years ago. Her journey – and I mean JOURNEY – is harrowing, frightening, amazing, heart-rendering all at the same time. She chronicles the lives of the Kims (Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il to current Kim Jong Un), shares the strict propaganda that surrounds every North Korean citizen, the poverty and hunger, as well as the underground black market for food and goods. It took her awhile to get from North Korea, to China and eventually to South Korea, where she currently lives. She’s well educated and speaks English quite well. She was invited to be a speaker at a TED talk – you know about those, right? TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a media organization which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.” I listen to them as  podcasts now and then. Always very educational, if sometimes over my head when it gets very technical. She works diligently for human rights now, doing her best to help other North Koreans escape. You owe it to yourself to read this book.

Also just finished reading The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. Another WOW book. I’ve always liked the author – many years ago I read his book, Midwives and really liked it. Don’t confuse this book with the one I recently read, The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas that I reviewed recently. I think we read it in one of my book groups. He’s a brilliant writer, and this one has a lot of characters and twists. It’s a novel, but based on a lot of truth regarding the Armenian genocide. Most of the book takes place in Aleppo, Syria with some good Samaritan folk trying to help rescue people (mostly children) following the forced long marches the Turks made prodding the Turkish Armenians to exit their country. But it also jumps to near present day as a family member is trying to piece together obscure parts of her grandparents’ former lives there. She uncovers some hidden truths (many survivors of the genocide never-ever-ever wanted to talk about it) and a bit more about her Armenian heritage. A riveting book – I could hardly put it down. Lots to discuss for a book club read. I simply must read more of Bohjalian’s books (he’s written many).

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

 

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 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)

* Exported from MasterCook *

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)

* Exported from MasterCook *

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!

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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.

Posted in Desserts, Gundry-friendly, on October 8th, 2018.

keto_mug_cake

Oh my goodness. I’ve discovered nirvana. I can still have my cake and eat it too!

For the last many months, I’ve been on a diet (Steven Gundry, Plant Paradox diet) and the weight loss has slowed down to a trickle. So much so that if I go out to eat – and am still trying to order things that are within the diet – I gain a pound every time. (It’s probably portion control and salt and maybe sometimes a sauce or something like that served with the piece of fish or chicken.) Then it takes me another week or more to get that off. I’m quite frustrated. There are lots of foods I really miss – some carbs, even some vegetables like green beans (the seeds contain lectins). I miss a piece of toast now and then. I miss eating a sandwich, like a tuna sandwich on white bread. I miss desserts. There is a coconut milk ice cream that is acceptable (So Delicious brand) but I don’t like it all that much. I’m really missing Mexican food – I’d do just about anything to have a shredded beef taco right about now. Or a cheese enchilada. But no, I’m afraid that if I succumb to having it once, it would become a regular routine to go off the diet. But what I’m not missing is chocolate because I’m able to have an ounce a day. Yippee!

So, at one of the Phillis Carey cooking classes a month or so ago, she mentioned a chocolate mug cake that she can have on her diet (keto). She emailed the recipe to me. I promptly looked at the ingredients and decided that yes, I can have it too! I made it once and was not thrilled, but I decided afterwards that I could tweak the recipe and would buy some fresh(er) almond meal. The mug cake had a decided bitter aftertaste that I couldn’t define. The almond meal didn’t smell stale, but then I didn’t taste it straight, either and it definitely was past its use-by date. So, today, I was just craving something sweet (I don’t often have those cravings) and since I can have a tablespoon of cocoa a day (or regular chocolate, 1 ounce) I’d try making the keto mug cake again. I had a new bag of Trader Joe’s almond meal (almond flour is okay too).

One thing I tweaked was the amount of sweetener. The original recipe called for 2 T of sweetener. Well, I think that’s way too much – I morphed it down to 1/2 tablespoon for the mug in its entirety. But perhaps that’s the Swerve. Taste the batter to make sure.

First I melted a tablespoon of butter in a mug in the microwave. (Now, technically, a tablespoon of butter is not on my diet, but even Gundry says that if butter is an important element to something go ahead and use it in moderation, so I did.) Then you add the almond flour, (there’s no wheat flour in this), baking powder, sugar sweetener in some form (I used Swerve, which is my new go-to sweetener), the tablespoon of cocoa powder, some coconut shreds if you want them (I didn’t), an egg and a tiny tetch of vanilla. Stir it up well in the mug and put it in the microwave. The recipe says 45-60 seconds. Mine is done perfectly at 45 seconds. The cake part rises up more than halfway in the mug and it kind of has a sponge-like look to the top. You sprinkle in just a few chocolate chips (optional – recipe calls for sugar free – I used the real thing, but only about 3-4) and pour on a tablespoon of coconut cream or heavy cream. Eat. Oohs and aaahs from here.

Whether I can have this regularly – well, probably not. But when I’ve had a really light lunch as I did today, I think the keto mug cake is in order. The calorie count is 427, so yes, this definitely needs to be an occasional treat!

What’s GOOD: nirvana for me, on this just-about-zero-carbs diet I’m on. Taste is wonderful – cake is moist and kind of sponge-cake like. Definitely a good chocolate taste/flavor. Not a large portion, which is good. Protein is in there (egg and almond meal) and I get my ration of chocolate too. Altogether wonderful. And it took all of about 4 minutes to mix it up and 45 seconds to “cook.”

What’s NOT: nothing at all, really. If you’re not dieting, use regular sugar – taste and add what you think it needs. Don’t use honey as it would change the chemistry – might need another tablespoon of almond meal if you used that route.

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Chocolate Keto Mug Cake

Recipe By: adapted slightly from Phillis Carey
Serving Size: 1

1 tablespoon butter — salted
3 tablespoons almond flour — or almond meal
1/2 tablespoon Swerve — or erythritol or monkfruit sugar (if you use different sweeteners, taste the batter, it may need more)
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon coconut shreds — unsweetened, optional
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg — beaten
1/8 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon chocolate chips — sugar free Lily brand, optional
1 tablespoon coconut milk — or coconut cream or heavy cream, optional

1. Melt butter in mug in microwave oven. Stir in almond flour, sweetener, cocoa, coconut, baking powder, egg and vanilla; mix well.
2. Microwave on HIGH power for 45-60 seconds until puffed and set. DO NOT OVERCOOK. Immediately top with chocolate chips. Serve topped with coconut milk or cream, if desired, to moisten the cake.
Per Serving: 427 Calories; 32g Fat (62.5% calories from fat); 19g Protein; 24g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 243mg Cholesterol; 453mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on July 29th, 2018.

fresh_lemon_crostata_slice

Sometimes when I type up posts, my taste buds kick into high gear, remembering the flavor of the dish. That’s the case here, Proust-like, I remember the piquant taste of the lemon curd filling and the crispy top.

Since I’m not eating desserts these days, it’s with reverence that I recall the lovely mouth-feel of this crostata, and just wish I could have some. This was from a cooking class a several months ago; one I’d forgotten about, so am posting it now.

Update about my diet: As an aside, I’m positively amazed that I’ve been able to not eat a single, solitary sweet thing for the last 2 1/2 months. I don’t crave sweets now (and I sure did in the past), and lucky for me, I can have an ounce of bittersweet chocolate a day. I went cold-turkey on carbs altogether – – and trust me, if this wasn’t working, I wouldn’t be continuing with the diet of zero carbs – except for the few carbs that exist in regular vegetables. Nary a piece of bread, a grain of rice, a bite of potato, a bean (legume), a grain of any kind, a speck of flour, sugar or pasta has passed my lips in the 2 1/2 months. I am able to eat 1/2 cup of fruit a day (berries only). I snack on a specific mix of toasted nuts (without peanuts or cashews, which are both legumes), 1/4 cup mid-morning and another 1/4 cup in the afternoon (if I’m hungry) and mostly I have soup (more cold soups lately) at lunchtime and I make a nice big salad for dinner with some kind of protein on it – maybe chicken, salmon, tuna, hard boiled eggs, or even a hunk of burrata cheese with a tasty salad dressing. Although I can make a more traditional dinner (a piece of grilled meat, for instance, with side vegetables) I’ve found that my weight loss continues at a steadier pace if I make my dinner meal a salad. I vary it with different dressings (just none like blue cheese, ranch or thousand island). I’ve never been a snacker type person after dinner, and I hope every night that when I go to bed my stomach is growling slightly. That means when I get on the scale each morning, it usually shows a weight loss.

If you missed my earlier mention of this diet, I’m following the food plan of Dr. Steven Gundry, a heart surgeon, who wrote the best selling book, The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in Healthy Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain. It all has to do with wicked lectins, which exist in so many foods (carbs, grains and legumes, even dairy). I didn’t have intestinal issues when I began this diet, but as I read his book, it simply made so much sense to me that I decided to go for it. And I am consistently losing about a pound a week, which is a healthy type of weight loss. I’m not hungry all the time. At my age, I’m content with losing a pound a week. Going out to eat is do-able (salads or fish and a vegetable), although I’ve found that when I do go out, my weight loss slows for a day or two, likely because of salt. If I sweeten my iced tea, I use a stevia product (Truvia or Sweet Leaf), which is okay because it’s derived from a plant, not chemicals. Of course, I’m a family of one, so sticking to this diet is easier, as I simply don’t buy or prepare any carbs. I’ve given away a whole lot of things from my pantry, and will likely continue doing that. If you’re interested in knowing what you can and can’t eat, this LINK will take you to Gundry’s website where he provides a printer-friendly group  of pages you can print out (I keep it in my purse).

fresh_lemon_crostata_wholeWell, so back to this lovely crostata. It’s made with an almond crust (it does contain some flour), and then you concoct a lemon curd filling. You’ll use a food processor for the crust (easy, really), adding only as much flour to make the dough hold together. It’s flavored with lemon zest and almond extract and does contain a big chunk of butter, which makes the crust kind of shortbread-like. There’s enough to make a bottom crust, and also to add strips to the top, which makes for a really beautiful presentation. The bottom crust needs to be blind baked and cooled.

The lemon curd is the normal type. You can use this version, or you can make my favorite lemon curd that came from America’s Test Kitchen. It needs to be made enough in advance that it can chill well, then it’s added to the cooled crust and baked again just long enough to get the extra pastry strips browned. Then the crostata is cooled completely on a rack before slicing and serving – along with some sweetened whipped cream and a sprig of mint for decoration.

What’s GOOD: the flavor – but then I love lemon anything – and the pretty presentation. Lots of good flavors in your mouth as you encounter the soft, acidic lemon curd and the crispy crusty bits. Softened by the whipped cream. Divine.

What’s NOT: this does take longer than some to prepare.

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Fresh Lemon Crostata

Recipe By: From a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter, 2018
Serving Size: 10

CRUST:
3/4 cup whole almonds — toasted and cooled (or more substitute hazelnuts)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour — (yes, added separately)
1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter — cut in cubes, well chilled
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons lemon zest — grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
FILLING (LEMON CURD):
5 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 stick unsalted butter — cut into small pieces
1/8 teaspoon salt
EGG GLAZE:
1 large egg
2 teaspoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
GARNISH:
8 mint leaves — for garnish
Sweetened whipped cream

1. CRUST: Pulse almonds and FIRST amount of flour in food processor until finely ground. Add almost all of the SECOND amount of flour, salt and sugar and pulse again. If dough needs the remaining flour, add it. Try to use as little flour as needed to bring the doughto a ball. Pulse in cold butter, extracts and zest. Pulse in egg until dough forms. Halve the dough and form each into a disk, one just slightly larger than the other. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill until firm.
2. Roll the larger piece of dough between two pieces of parchment paper. Remove top sheet and invert into an 8-inch springform pan lined with parchment. Press over bottom and at least an inch up the sides of the pan. Roll out remaining dough between sheets of parchment. Remove top piece of parchment, then cut dough into ten 1/3″ wide strips. Chill that dough until firm.
3. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line the springform pan with foil and add pie weights and bake until pale golden and edge is golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Cool shell on a rack.
4. FILLING: Beat egg yolks and 3/4 cup sugar until very thick and trip le in volume. Transfer mixture to a heavy bottomed pan and stir in lemon zest, juice, butter and salt. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking frequently, until lemon curd is thick enough to hold marks on a spoon, about 6 minutes. Transfer lemon curd to a bowl, cover top with plastic wrap so it’s touching the curd, cool and chill.
5. Spread filling in baked pie shell and arrange 5 dough strips one inch apart on top of filling. Arrange remaining 5 strips one inch apart diagonally across strips to form a lattice (of sorts, but not woven over and under). Trim edges. Brush tops with egg wash (egg mixed with water, whisked), then sprinkle top with remaining sugar. Bake crostata until golden and filling is bubbling, 25-30 minutes. Cool completely in the pan, on a rack, for 2 hours. Remove springform sides and completely the cooling. Serve with sweetened whipped cream and garnish with mint leaves.
Per Serving: 452 Calories; 31g Fat (60.6% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 38g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 198mg Cholesterol; 156mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on July 4th, 2018.

mayan_choc_pud

Oh, my mouth is watering. It was early May when I had this, and I can still remember the wonderful mouth-feel of this decadent chocolate pudding. I have these adorable little-bitty glass footed cups (pictured). They’re not used for much, but when it’s the right thing, well, they’re perfect!

You’ll want to know that this pudding is rich. You’ll not eat all that much of it. Does that make it more enticing because you know you’ll only eat about 1/4 cup of it? Less guilty, maybe? But you should not bypass this recipe just because of the calories. If you’re a chocoholic like I am, you’ll want this recipe in your repertoire. You could make this the day or two ahead of a party too. I doubt I’d make this for a weeknight meal – only because of the nuisance of baking in a water bath. Why do we think that’s so much trouble? It’s really not, but still I might not make it sometimes because of that.

It starts with an equal quantity of heavy cream and whole milk. Then 12 ounces of bittersweet chocolate (do use something at least 72% cacao) get added in, with ground cinnamon (which would give it a Mexican hint) but THEN you add 1/4 tsp of ground chipotle chili powder. Pow. It also has a tetch of ground allspice in it, and a dozen egg yolks. This recipe is not for the faint of heart. Once the pudding is mostly made on the stove, it’s poured into individual ramekins, or a larger vessel (so it can be scooped as I did with the photo above) into smaller dishes to serve. Do make some whipped cream (it needs it, believe it or not, to cut through the sweet and the chocolate of the pudding itself) and sweeten it and add a little cinnamon to it too. Your table of guests will be deadly quiet as you hear the spoons clinking in the cups as they eat it. From a cooking class with Phillis Carey.

What’s GOOD: the overall chocolate flavor – almost a fudge like texture – and I loved the tiny hint of heat (from the chipotle chili powder). It’s very subtle, but perfect! Make this for Cinco de Mayo next year?

What’s NOT: maybe only the water bath thing. Otherwise, this recipe is a real winner.

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Mayan Chocolate Pudding

Recipe By: Phillis Carey, cooking instructor, 5/2018
Serving Size: 12-16

2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate — finely chopped (72% or higher)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground chipotle chile powder
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
12 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
whipped cream with sugar, cinnamon and vanilla added

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. In a medium saucepan, combine the cream and milk and bring to a boil over moderate heat. Be careful as it reaches boiling as it may boil over. Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate until completely melted, then whisk in cinnamon, salt, chipotle and allspice.
2. In a large bowl whisk egg yolks with sugar until pale, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the hot chocolate mixture until smooth. Whisk in vanilla. Ladle the custard into twelve 5-ounce ramekins. This is very rich, so you may use smaller containers and serve about 3 ounces each, in which case you’d likely be able to serve 16.
3. Set ramekins in a large roasting pan or two deep baking pans and transfer them to the middle of the oven. Fill the roasting pan with enough boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 40 minutes (less if using small containers), until the puddings are set but still slightly wobbly in the center. Using tongs, transfer ramekins to a baking sheet and cool, then chill at least 4 hours, or up to 2 days. Top the puddings with a dollop of whipped cream with sugar, cinnamon and vanilla added.
Per Serving (based on serving 12): 403 Calories; 37g Fat (75.0% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 20g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 273mg Cholesterol; 85mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on June 19th, 2018.

almond_ricotta_cake_slice

Really tasty cake made with mostly almonds (with a little bit of flour), lemon juice and ricotta cheese. Not a light and airy cake, this, but loaded with flavor. Sublime with the whipped cream and berries on top.

The leavening in this cake comes from the egg yolks and egg whites. I wish I were enough of an adventurous baker to fiddle with this recipe and reduce the amount of butter in it. Two cubes. That’s a lot, but then, it serves 12 people, so I suppose you’re not really getting all that much butter in each slice.

The cake requires a 10-inch springform pan, and it’s a bit of a fuss to butter it first, then line it with parchment, and then butter the parchment. You need to do this to assure that the cake will not stick. The blanched almonds are coarsely ground up in a food processor with a bit of sugar, then combined with the minor amount of flour and lemon zest. The butter and sugar are mixed up in a stand mixer (or hand held), then yolks added and you fold in the almond mixture.. The ricotta is mixed lightly with a fork along with the lemon juice, just to make it a bit more pliable. That’s folded into the almond cake mixture. Lastly the egg whites are whipped to soft peaks and folded in as well. Finally that’s all put into the springform pan and baked about 40 minutes.

almond_ricotta_cake_wholeIdeally, serve this cake warm, and with the lightly sweetened whipped cream, and with the lovely fresh berries on the side. And a sprig of mint if you have some.

What’s GOOD: the texture of the cake is slightly crunchy – not majorly crunchy, but a little crunchy. The cake is very sweet (I think n ext time I’d reduce the sugar by a little bit). Overall, though, this is a wonderfully tasting cake. Very different than a traditional light and airy cake. This isn’t, but it still fabulous!

What’s NOT: only that it has a bunch of steps to making it, but none take a lot of time. Worth doing, I think.

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

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Almond, Lemon and Ricotta Cake with Berries and Cream

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

2 1/2 cups almonds — sliced, blanched
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons lemon zest
1 cup unsalted butter — yes, that’s the right amount
1 cup sugar
6 large eggs — separated
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 cups ricotta cheese — full fat
TOPPINGS:
1/2 cup cream
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla sifted powdered sugar to garnish
1 cup berries
mint leaves for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Butter a 10-inch springform pan and line it with parchment (on the bottom). Butter parchment. In food processor combine coarsely chopped almonds with 2 T of the sugar (taken from the 1-cup measure). Combine with flour and zest.
2. Beat butter with remaining amount in the 1-cup measure of sugar in a mixer until it turns light and pale. Add yolks one by one. Fold into the almond mixture.
3. Put ricotta cheese in a bowl and lightly beat with a fork. Add lemon juice. In another bowl beat the egg whites with the 2 T of sugar and beat until soft peaks. Fold the ricotta mixture into the almond mixture. Gently fold in the beaten whites.
4. Spread mixture in prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes until lightly browned on top. Cool for 10 minutes, then remove the springform ring. Dust with powdered sugar. Whip cream with sugar and vanilla and serve lapped onto the cake and garnish with fresh berries.
Per Serving: 516 Calories; 39g Fat (66.0% calories from fat); 13g Protein; 32g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 169mg Cholesterol; 66mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on May 4th, 2018.

spiced_cranberry_bundt_cake

Do you still have some cranberries stuck in the back of your refrigerator? Or maybe a package in the freezer. This one’s for you!

The other day I was trying to find cornichon pickles in my refrigerator. I knew I had some, but couldn’t seem to find them. People who don’t cook much don’t have that kind of problem, I’d guess, since you might be able to open the refrigerator and you can see everything in it at one glance. Not so with mine. I’ve got all kinds of stuff in mine, little jars and packages of this and that, some in little long rectangular box/trays slid onto a shelf, on rounders on the top shelf, etc. Anyway, lo and behold, I had a bag of fresh cranberries pushed up against the back wall on the bottom shelf. That package, unfortunately, had to be tossed out, but I also had a small amount of fresh cranberries in a ziploc bag in the freezer. Perfect for this cake.

spiced_cranberry_bundt_cake_wholeHaving been invited to dinner with my friends Cherrie and Bud, I was asked to bring dessert. And knowing my schedule on that date, I knew I needed to make it the day before. Whatever it was I decided to make. I scrolled through my to-try recipes and settled on this one, since cranberries were on my brain. One of my criteria was to NOT have to make a trip to the grocery store. So, this one fit the bill. I had everything, including Greek yogurt, Chinese five spice, almonds and both the frozen cranberries and dried cranberries. Zi-pi-dee-do-da. Did I spell that right? Haven’t a clue!!

spiced_cranberry_bundt_sliceThe dry ingredients are mixed up together. Easy. The butter needed to be warmed (my Dacor microwave does a stellar job of bringing chilled butter to room temp with one 10 second period, a pause to turn over the cubes, and another zap of 6 seconds, and the cubes are soft but not too soft. The batter was begun by whipping the butter (adding lots of air), then the sugars were added, eventually the eggs, yogurt, then the dry ingredients and mixed just briefly. Once that was combined, the dried cranberries and the halved frozen cranberries plus toasted almonds were added and it easily slid into the greased and floured Bundt cake pan. It baked for over an hour, cooled for an hour, then I upended it onto my wood cutting board to cool completely. I covered it in plastic wrap overnight (since I don’t have a glass dome cake cover). It was easy enough to bring along a fresh orange and I decorated the cake just before serving. I also bought some vanilla ice cream on the way to their house.

What’s GOOD: loved the Chinese five spice (it’s different because of the little amount of ground fennel and Szechuan pepper in it). It gives this cake a different flavor – but you can’t quite identify it. It was moist and sweet. Liked the use of frozen cranberries (tart) and the dried cranberries (sweet). You will want ice cream with this. I brought more than half of it home (even after sharing some with Cherrie & Bud) and it’s now in the freezer from some occasion when I need a dessert in a hurry! On the scale of heavy cake to light cake, I’d say it was about in the middle. The cake pan was heavy. Just don’t overcook it (test with a toothpick) so it doesn’t get dry.

What’s NOT: maybe that you don’t have frozen cranberries on hand. The cake was easy to make, although the ingredient list might be daunting – it’s not really that difficult.

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

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Spiced Cranberry Bundt Cake

Recipe By: Epicurious
Serving Size: 14

2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup almond flour — or almond meal (about 2 1/2 ounces)
2 1/2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup unsalted butter — (2 sticks) room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar — (packed)
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup Greek yogurt, full-fat — or 2% works too
1 cup almonds — chopped toasted
1 cup fresh cranberries — chilled, halved (or frozen cranberries, not thawed)
1/2 cup dried cranberries — chopped
1 tablespoon orange zest
2/3 cup powdered sugar
4 teaspoons orange juice — (about)

NOTES: Chinese five-spice powder is a combination of spices: make your own with 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground cloves, 1/2 tsp fennel seed, toasted and ground, 1/2 tsp star anise, ground and 1/2 tsp szechuan peppercorns, toasted and ground.
1. CAKE: Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour 12-cup Bundt pan. Whisk first 8 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add both sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract, then Greek yogurt. Add dry ingredients; beat just until blended. Fold in almonds and all cranberries. Transfer batter to prepared Bundt pan. Bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Cool cake in pan 10 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack and cool completely.
2. ICING: Stir powdered sugar and 2 teaspoons orange juice in small bowl until sugar dissolves. Mix in more juice by 1/2 teaspoonfuls to reach consistency of heavy cream. Spoon icing over cake, allowing it to drip down sides. Sprinkle top with orange zest. Let stand until icing sets, at least 30 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream. DO AHEAD: Cake can be made 3 days ahead. Cover with cake dome and store at room temperature. Freezes well for up to a month.
Per Serving: 429 Calories; 22g Fat (45.9% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 50g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 88mg Cholesterol; 187mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on April 25th, 2018.

choc_brownie_cobbler

What’s in a name? Is this a cobbler? Not like a traditional one with fruit. Is it a brownie? Sort of, but much looser. Is it a lava cake? Possibly, but made in a casserole instead of individual ramekins. Maybe it’s really a pudding cake in disguise. Whatever you call it, it’s worth making.

Years ago I read an article about all the differences and variations of cobblers, crisps, buckles and pandowdys. And from my recollection, I don’t know that this recipe quite qualifies, but hey, it’s just a name. What this isn’t is a brownie you can pick up with your fingers. As I explained above, this is more like a pudding cake. Decadent, full of chocolate flavor. Tarla Fallgatter made this at a recent cooking class, and I all but licked the bowl. But then, I love chocolate in almost any way, shape or form. Oh, except milk chocolate. Someone offered me a chocolate bar the other day that contained cinnamon and crispy things inside, but it was made with milk chocolate. I had one bite and threw the rest away. Not for me. It was also exceptionally sweet.

choc_brownie_cobbler_baked_whole

Don’t you just want to dip your spoon into that? From the look of it, it’s a chocolate cake. But oh no, it’s not. Well, yes, it IS a cake, but its properties are much more fluid, soft, oozy. Totally decadent in my book. The batter is just like a chocolate cake (butter, eggs, chopped chocolate, sugar flour, nuts, and some chocolate chips thrown in at the end) and it’s baked in a ceramic or glass dish. If you have big eaters this won’t serve 10. But serving smaller portions  you definitely could feed 10 since you’ll serve it with vanilla ice cream. You need the ice cream to balance the sweet and rich of the pudding/cake. Make this, okay?

What’s GOOD: definitely the chocolate flavor. If you’re a chocoholic like I am, you’ll swoon over this one. You could, I suppose, make this with milk chocolate if that’s your chocolate of choice. I much prefer dark chocolate! There’s plenty of texture in this – cake part, oozy chocolate lava-like part and a bit of crispy crust plus a few little chunks of chocolate chips. Altogether wonderful and easy to prepare.

What’s NOT: if you don’t like chocolate, well, this isn’t for you! This is a keeper as far as I’m concerned. Very easy to make also.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chocolate Brownie Cobbler

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter, cooking instructor
Serving Size: 10

1 cup unsalted butter
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup walnuts — toasted, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chocolate chips — or pieces
cocoa powder
vanilla ice cream

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Butter a 9-inch baking dish (glass or ceramic).
3. Melt butter and chocolate in a bowl over simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and add sugar and eggs. Mix well. Add vanilla, both quantities of flour and salt. Stir in walnuts and chocolate pieces/chips and transfer to prepared baking dish.
4. Bake until top is crisp, 40-50 minutes. Center of cobbler should be soft. Cool in a rack for 15 minutes. Dust with cocoa powder. Spoon the cobbler into bowls and serve with vanilla ice cream. As the cobbler cools, it firms up some and won’t have the soft, runny consistency.
Per Serving: 531 Calories; 37g Fat (58.7% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 50g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 134mg Cholesterol; 141mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on March 20th, 2018.

sour_cream_rhubarb_pie_slice

Do you like rhubarb? Gosh, I sure do, and here in SoCal, it’s hard to find sometimes. When I see it at any of my local markets, I buy some.

There aren’t many rhubarb recipes here on my blog. Mostly because over the years I was married to my DH, as a Type 1 diabetic, rhubarb was a dangerous fruit for him because it requires so much sugar to make it edible. I was never successful using artificial sweeteners with rhubarb. But I grew up knowing and eating rhubarb. My mother used to make a simple rhubarb sauce and that would be dessert whenever the big patch of rhubarb in our back yard was bearing fruit. My mother did make rhubarb pie now and then too.

rhubarb_in_shell_rawDid you read my last post about the new pie crust I made? That has a bit of cornstarch added into the dough? This one – see the lovely flaky-looking edge – I’ll just tell you even those edges were tender and oh-so flaky – I ate every bite of my slice.

First the raw rhubarb was trimmed and cut up into 1/2” slices. Easy to do. They were piled into the crust. Meanwhile, I’d made an egg and sour cream mixture (plus a tetch of flour and salt), added some vanilla and poured it onto the rhubarb. It took a minute or so for the viscous fluid to sink down in, but it did.

rhubarb_pie_raw_filling_addedInto the oven the pie went, first at a high temp, then after 10 minutes the temp is reduced to 350°F and baked about another 30 minutes.

The crumb topping is kind of standard (sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon and butter) and mixed up well with a fork. When the pie comes out of the oven at this point, the crumb topping was added and the pie was baked for an additional 15 minutes.

sour_cream_rhubarb_pie_streusel_crust_out_of_ovenI had to leave the house at the exact moment this pie was finished, so if I’d wanted to add another 5 minutes of baking I couldn’t have done it. I was concerned, though, as the center was still looking a little bit jiggly, but it had completely set by the time the pie cooled and it was served.

Results? Every one raved about it – me included. Fortunately everyone in my group that night liked rhubarb. I thought the sour cream aspect of it added a lot of mellowing flavor. The recipe came from The Splendid Table, and it’s a keeper.

What’s GOOD: everything about it was good – the pie crust, the filling, the topping, etc. I served it with vanilla ice cream, and then the leftovers were served with whipped cream instead. Both were good. This recipe is a keeper.

What’s NOT: nary a thing. I’d definitely make this again.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Sour Cream Rhubarb Pie

Recipe By: The Splendid Table
Serving Size: 8

1 1/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups rhubarb — (fresh or frozen), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
CRUMB TOPPING:
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup butter — softened

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream and vanilla, then add to the flour mixture.
3. Place the rhubarb in the prepared pie shell. Pour the egg and flour mixture evenly over the top.
4. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for 30 minutes more.
5. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the crumb topping and mix with a fork until crumbly.
6. Remove the pie from the oven and sprinkle the crumb topping over the top. Return to the oven to bake for another 15 minutes or until the topping is lightly browned.
7. Remove from the oven again and allow the pie to cool slightly before slicing. Pie can be frozen at this point. Once it is defrosted and warmed slightly in a 200°F oven, you would never know it had ever been frozen.
Per Serving: 326 Calories; 13g Fat (35.8% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 50g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 81mg Cholesterol; 294mg Sodium.

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