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Just finished News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her life. That kind of praise required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her parents were killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of a old west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many.

Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, by James, McGrath Morris. Each year my AAUW book club reads something related to Black History Month. This is a biography of a woman you’ve probably never heard of, Ethel Payne, and about her life-long journey in journalism, struggling to keep her head above water financially, but staying true to her purposes of telling the truth about the black stories and black racism of the day. Sometimes biographies aren’t all that riveting, but I found this one to be so, and I savored each new chapter. We had a really good discussion of the book, and the ups and downs of Payne’s life, especially during her years as a Washington reporter. You’ll not be sorry to have spent the time reading this book. It’s well-written, as well. I was thrilled when the author, Morris, left a message here on my blog, thanking me (and my group) for reading his book.

H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. This one has been on the best seller list. It’s a memoir about a woman who takes on a personal challenge of taming a wild hawk. Prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about the entire subject of hawking, or taming any of the big, wild birds. The book is equally about the writer’s inner journey. She’s a consummate writer, and every page was a joy of words, for me. My only problem is my own – I found it hard, the more time that went by, and the more time the writer spent trying to tame this bird, to scream out “let the bird go.” Perhaps it’s because I spent time in Africa in 2015, seeing animals in the wild, that I felt more for the bird than I did with the writer’s discontent with herself and the taming process. Little did I know what a hard job it is to tame a hawk. I actually didn’t finish the book. It was a book club read, and highly recommended by several of our members. And I ended up not being able to attend the meeting as I had a cold. So perhaps there is some great ending to it that would have made me feel better. I haven’t gone to the end to find out. I just had to stop reading it. But I’m not NOT recommending it. If nothing else, read it for Macdonald’s sublime proficiency with words.

Also read George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Dan Yaeger. Here’s what it says on amazon: When George Washington beat a hasty retreat from New York City in August 1776, many thought the American Revolution might soon be over. Instead, Washington rallied—thanks in large part to a little-known, top-secret group called the Culper Spy Ring. He realized that he couldn’t defeat the British with military might, so he recruited a sophisticated and deeply secretive intelligence network to infiltrate New York. I won’t exactly call this book a riveting read, but it was interesting. Relating facts that few people knew about, this Culper Spy Ring. It’s a little chunk of American history researched in depth by the authors. An interesting read.

Also read The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George. If you’re an avid reader, you probably have the same kind of longing as I do for a quaint, independently owned bookstore right around the corner. So few exist anymore. This novel is about a very unusual book store, and book store owner. In Paris. On a boat/barge. It’s not a typical book store, and the writer takes you on a journey of discovery about (likely) her own lifetime of book reading. You’ll learn all about a variety of existing books and why they’re a good read. But it’s all cloaked in a story about this book store and the owner. And the customers. Very fun. I’m reviewing it for one of my book clubs next month.

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 Essays, on March 4th, 2017.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time, you may remember that I included a pdf download many years ago, for exactly what temperature to grill meat. It didn’t include every possible grilled item, but it was a chart I still refer to often since I can’t seem to remember what fish needs to be when done, or even chicken breast vs. chicken thigh.

BUT, I read an article recently that totally opened up the skies with all kinds of various baked things. I’ve known for awhile that most baked goods need to cook to about 200° or possibly 190°. My new chart has it all. I’ve grouped it by types of food, mostly.

baking_roasting_grilling_chartHere’s a photo of it – don’t use it – go to the link below – I squeezed it down so it would fit here within my blog columns – so you can see what it looks like.

I also learned that a ground meat casserole only needs to be 165° to be cooked through. That’s a big help too. So, down below you’ll see a link to download the pdf and print it. It’s a one-page chart. Hope this helps you – I have mine in a plastic sleeve and it’s inside one of my kitchen cupboards – easy to reach for and refer to.

PRINTER-FRIENDLY PDF of the “Temperature Guide for Baking, Grill and Roasting.”

Posted in Cookies, on March 3rd, 2017.

butterscotch_walnut_meringue_bars

You might think that all I eat is baked goods. A friend who looked at my blog recently thought that, but then, she didn’t delve very deeply into my posts. I probably have more desserts and cookies than any of the other categories. I just enjoy baking a lot. I have no cookies in my house at the moment.

Needing some cookies and things for an event recently, I looked at some newer recipes I’d added to my to-try list. This recipe came from Peabody, at SweetReciPEAS. She raved about them, so that was a good enough excuse to bake them for my event. They’re two layers – a brown sugar and butter base (with flour and egg), then you press walnuts into that layer; then you mix up the brown sugar meringue mixture and spread it on top. Bake. See? Easy. She used bourbon in the base and in the meringue topping too  (though you can use vanilla instead). Truly, I couldn’t taste the bourbon, but perhaps if they’d been omitted, they’d have been less flavorful – won’t know unless I try them side by side. Out of the entire 9×13 pan batch, I ate one and either served them at my event or gave them away to friends. I thought they might not keep all that long anyway.

They’re delicious. A bit of crunch from the bottom layer and a light crunch from the meringue. Plus the walnuts in there too. The meringue doesn’t exactly stick very well to the base, so be careful as you cut them up. Perhaps a whipped up raw egg in between might solve that problem, if you’re inclined to try it.

What’s GOOD: the flavor and crunch. They’re sweet – very sweet. If I make them again I’ll cut down on the sugar in both layers by just a tetch, but everyone I served them to raved about them. They almost have the sweetness of candy, but they’re definitely NOT candy. You could cut larger pieces, serve with whipped cream as a dessert portion. I made bars and got about 18 or so from the pan. Very different – the meringue has a golden hue – almost like taupe, from the brown sugar. Kind of different. Not everyone recognized that it was a meringue top.

What’s NOT: really, nothing. These are delicious. Easy to make.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Butterscotch Walnut Meringue Bars

Recipe By: SweetReciPEAS, 2017
Serving Size: 18

BASE:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 Pinch salt
1 cup light brown sugar — firmly packed
1/2 cup cold butter — cut into pieces
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons bourbon — or vanilla
TOPPING:
2 egg whites
1 cup brown sugar — firmly packed
1 tablespoon bourbon
1 1/2 cups walnuts — chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. 2. Spray a 9-x-13-inch baking pan with baking spray. Set aside.
2. BASE: Add the flour, baking powder, salt & brown sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse until the ingredients come together. Add the butter and process until the butter is the size of small peas. Add the egg yolk and bourbon and pulse until the mixture as the consistency of sandy clumps. Pat mixture into the pan and level off by pressing with a small offset spatula or spoon.
3. Top with walnuts. Push them into the dough. The dough is crumbly so it will need to be patted down again.
4. MERINGUE: Using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment beat egg whites until they hold a peak when whisk is lifted. Add the brown sugar and beat at the highest speed about 4 minutes. Add the bourbon and beat for another minute. Spread the meringue over the walnut layer. The meringue does stick to the dough, sort of – the dough is sandy, so it’s not easy to spread. Just do you best you can. Bake 25 minutes or until tester inserted into pan comes out clean.
5. Let cool to room temperature and cut into squares.
Per Serving: 221 Calories; 12g Fat (47.2% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 37mg Cholesterol; 114mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on February 26th, 2017.

laurie_colwins_damp_gingerbread

If you’re a younger person, you’ve likely never heard of Laurie Colwin. She penned a column in Gourmet Magazine for many years. She died way too young.

How sad I was when I heard that Laurie Colwin had died in 1992. I loved her columns – irreverent for sure. She never considered herself a gourmand. She was just a home cook. She debunked theories and philosophies of cooking. She shared stories about how she cooked and entertained in her miniscule NYC apartment when she was a single person. I LOL’d when I read that story. I wrote up a post in 2013 about damp_gingerbread_wedgeLaurie Colwin, and part of that essay is in that post. And I’d always planned to make a lot of her recipes. She eventually married and had children, and continued to write her irreverent prose about the joys and dilemmas of day to day cooking. She wrote at least 2 memoir-style cookbooks, Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen (Vintage Contemporaries); and More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen. I bought them years ago and savored every word in both books, certainly saying I’d make some of the recipes. But I never did.

Then recently I read a blog piece somewhere that mentioned this recipe, the Damp Gingerbread. One of her recipes I’d always intended to try. So, recently, when we had a dark, damp day, I dug into my baking stuff and made her cake.

This cake isn’t the heavy, dark kind of cake many people prefer, or think of when you think “gingerbread.” Most of those recipes contain molasses. This one doesn’t. This one uses Lyle’s Golden Syrup. Now, for those of you who don’t know what it is, it’s a type of syrup (Golden Syrup is made from sugar cane or sugar beet when processing for sugar. It is a form of invert sugar syrup. . . this from my friend Toni, in England) produced in England and available in some (rare) stores here in the U.S. I used to be able to find it sometimes, but since I had none on my shelves, I went to Amazon. The link above goes to a single can (free shipping even if you don’t have amazon Prime) that’s just the right size for this recipe. I had to wait for its delivery before I could bake the cake. Could you use regular corn syrup? I suppose, but Lyle’s has a lightly golden color and I think it’s made differently than our American corn syrup.

damp_gingerbread_slice_outThis gingerbread doesn’t contain the load of spices more common to gingerbread, either. Just ground ginger, ground cloves and ground cinnamon. I think Laurie Colwin liked a more subtle gingerbread. And then, what about the DAMP designation? Well, the recipe indicates you bake it JUST until the cake has pulled away from the sides and is still almost damp in the middle. I probably overbaked mine as it wasn’t exactly damp, in my opinion. Was it moist? Yes. Delicious? Yes. It would be nice to make two types and try them side by side. This one is more delicate. You don’t even need a mixer – I did it all in one bowl and poured it into my 9” round, high-sided cake pan (it would likely overflow a regular height cake pan). An hour later it was done.

What’s GOOD: it’s a lovely, lighter than usual gingerbread. Subtle spices, and delicious with a big, fat dollop of whipped cream on it. Easy to make – a one-bowl thing without using a mixer.

What’s NOT: if you prefer the dark heavy type of gingerbread, this one won’t float your boat. I liked it. Maybe next time I’ll try another recipe for the darker type. I think I like both, actually.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Laurie Colwin’s Damp Gingerbread

Recipe By: Laurie Colwin (deceased), writer, cookbook author
Serving Size: 10

9 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups Lyle’s Golden Syrup — (12 ounces)
2 cups all-purpose flour — plus 2 tablespoons
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 egg
1 cup milk

1. Heat the oven to 350° F. Butter a 9-inch round pan (2 inches deep) and line the bottom with parchment paper. In a small saucepan, melt the butter with the Lyle’s Golden Syrup.
2. Into a bowl, sift the flour, salt, baking soda, ground ginger, ground cloves, and cinnamon. Pour the syrup and melted butter onto the dry ingredients and mix well. Add the egg and the milk and beat well. The batter will be very liquidy, not to worry.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 to 55 minutes. The middle should be just set, with the edge pulling away from the pan, and a tester will bring out a few crumbs. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out. (Serve with sweetened whipped cream.)
Per Serving: 322 Calories; 12g Fat (33.5% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 49g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 52mg Cholesterol; 452mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on February 21st, 2017.

choc_truffle_cake

Oh my! This cake/torte is just off the charts. Ample chocolate for the chocoholic; plenty of substance with the “cake” part – almost like fudge but not quite, and crunch from the walnuts. All gently lapped with whipped cream on top.

If you’re a chocolate person, you’ll want to make this truffle cake. The ganache (the top layer) is rich with just bittersweet chocolate and cream. Oh so rich. Oh so lovely and delicious. The crust has unsweetened cocoa in it, plus some walnuts and stuff to hold it together. The filling has copious amounts of walnuts and honey plus butter, brown sugar and cream. Tarla put this together in no time – you might think it would be time-consuming with all the layers, but really not. Your guests will be wowed.

The cake/torte is made in a 9-inch springform pan lined with parchment. The crust is all composed of standard ingredients and you pack that into the bottom. The base is baked until firm and is allowed to cool on a rack. Then you put together the filling with more standard kind of ingredients plus the walnuts. That layer is cooked on the stove – kind of like a candy, to 280°F and it’s poured on top of the crust/base. The walnuts are sprinkled on top once that filling layer has cooled. You kind of press them into the filling. The ganache is just bittersweet chocolate and cream and once smooth and melted, you cool it to room temp and at that point it will hold into soft peaks – then  you spread it on top of the filling (and walnuts nestled into the filling). That’s then chilled for several hours – at least 4 – and do allow it to sit at room temp for about 30 minutes before you try to cut and serve it – WITH whipped cream. It might seem like overkill, but trust me, it isn’t. You’ll want that whipped cream to counter the richness of the truffle cake. Thank you, Tarla, for another great chocolate recipe (cooking class).

What’s GOOD: the flavor – the chocolate – oh yes, SO delicious. It serves 10 if you make the slices fairly narrow. It’s very rich, so you don’t need a big piece. It’s a chocoholic’s dream come true. Make it, okay?

What’s NOT: nothing, unless you don’t like chocolate!

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chocolate Walnut Truffle Cake

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter, cooking instructor
Serving Size: 12

BASE:
1/2 stick unsalted butter — (1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup walnuts — finely chopped
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
FILLING:
1 1/2 cups walnuts
1/2 stick unsalted butter — (1/4 cup)
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
GANACHE:
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 pound bittersweet chocolate — (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate), use good quality

1. Preheat oven to 350°F and butter a 9-inch springform pan.
2. Make base: In a small saucepan melt butter and stir in cocoa powder. Remove pan from heat and add brown sugar, stirring until dissolved. Stir in flour, walnuts, egg, and vanilla and spread batter evenly in springform pan. Bake base in middle of oven 10 minutes, or just until firm, and transfer to a rack to cool.
3. Make filling: Arrange walnuts in one layer on top of base. In a small heavy saucepan combine butter, brown sugar, and honey and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes, or until a candy thermometer registers 280°F. Remove pan from heat and add cream, vanilla, and lemon juice, stirring until smooth. Cool mixture to room temperature and pour over walnuts, spreading evenly.
4. Make ganache: In a saucepan bring cream just to a boil. Finely chop chocolate. Put chocolate in a metal bowl and pour hot cream over it, stirring until smooth. Cool ganache to room temperature and beat with an electric mixer until it just holds soft peaks (do not overbeat or it will become grainy).
5. Spread ganache evenly over filling. Chill cake, covered, at least 4 hours and up to 1 day.
6. Run a thin knife around edge of cake and remove side of pan. With a large spatula transfer cake to a plate and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before serving.
Per Serving: 634 Calories; 53g Fat (68.4% calories from fat); 11g Protein; 44g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 79mg Cholesterol; 33mg Sodium.

Posted in Uncategorized, on February 20th, 2017.

Once in awhile I read about what new words are added prior to the annual reprinting of the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Over at Food52, they provided the newest list, noting that some people don’t even know how to pronounce a few of them. The links go to the online dictionary where you can read all about it/them. EVOO – that’s a word that Rachel Ray coined, I’m sure. I use it now in my own recipes – so much easier than typing the full 4 words. For years, I’ve been mispronouncing #1.

1. acai

2. Alfredo sauce

3. American chop suey

4. arancini

5. artisanal

6. calamondin

7. chef’s knife

8. chicken mushroom

9. chicken of the woods

10. circus peanut

11. coconut milk

12. coconut water

13. d’Anjou

14. elderflower

15. EVOO

16. farro

17. flatbread

18. food secure

19. food insecure

20. food truck

21. immersion circulator

22. macaron

23. Minneola tangelo

24. noni

25. olericulture

26. red bliss

27. santoku

28. secret sauce

29. Shirley Temple

30. strata

Posted in Salads, on February 16th, 2017.

arugula_salad_peppers_stuffed_mushrooms

This could have been a light meal – it’s just so very tasty – but then I love arugula. This salad has some strips of roasted bell peppers and toasted pine nuts, in addition to the stuffed mushrooms.

Sometimes I have difficulty using up a bag of arugula (and it doesn’t seem to have a long life in the refrigerator, once you open the bag), since I don’t make salad with JUST arugula in it – I put in lots of other stuff. But if I made this salad two days in a row (and I’d have no difficulty eating that up) I’d have used the entire bag. This salad JUST has arugula (as the greens) in it. If you don’t like arugula, use another green, even Romaine or leaf lettuce would be fine too. What makes this salad are two things: the goat-cheese stuffed mushrooms and the delicious mustardy vinaigrette. Well, and the light crunch of the toasted pine nuts. If you don’t want to pay the premium, these days, for pine nuts, use walnuts or hazelnuts. I wouldn’t use pecans, but if you’re a fan of them, go ahead!

The dressing is easy enough to make – just shake it up in a small jar. The nuts do need to be toasted, and the bell peppers (use whatever color you have, but Tarla Fallgatter used both red and  yellow, in the class when she prepared this) need to be cut open, flattened out in one long, wide strip and the seeds and ribs removed and roasted.

The mushrooms are roasted in the oven with a filling of goat cheese, a few red chili flakes, salt, pepper and some fresh basil leaves. Once the mushrooms are stuffed, you sprinkle the tops with Parmesan (it doesn’t need much). They’re baked about 15 minutes and they’re perfect – just barely cooked through and the filling just heated and nicely warm. Then you basically toss the salad together and add the hot mushrooms on the plate and serve. Altogether nice.

What’s GOOD: the flavor is certainly first and foremost – loved the blend of arugula with the mustard and sherry wine vinegar dressing. And the mushrooms – oh gosh – I could have eaten an entire plate of them. Hence, this salad could easily be a light meal if you are willing to eat a meatless salad. Maybe serve a few more mushrooms per person if you did make it a meal. SO SO good.

What’s NOT: there are several steps to making this, but none is difficult or all that time consuming. Even making the goat cheese filling takes about 3 minutes total. Or less. Nothing to complain about at all.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter, cooking instructor
Serving Size: 6

SALAD:
4 cups baby arugula
2 whole red bell peppers
1 whole yellow bell pepper
1/3 cup pine nuts — toasted
VINAIGRETTE:
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons mustard — sweet, spicy type salt and pepper to taste
6 tablespoons olive oil
MUSHROOMS:
5 ounces soft goat cheese
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons fresh basil — minced
18 medium mushroom caps — (stems removed)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated

1. VINAIGRETTE: Combine ingredients in a small jar and shake vigorously. Set aside.
2. PEPPERS: Core and remove seeds from bell peppers. Toss with olive oil, place skin side up on foil lined baking sheet and broil until peppers are blistered. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, remove skins and slice peppers and set aside.
3. MUSHROOMS: Mix goat cheese, red chili flakes, salt, pepper and basil together. Toss mushroom caps with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Preheat oven to 425°F. Carefully spoon filling into mushrooms and sprinkle lightly with grated Parmesan on top. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.
4. SALAD: Toss the bell peppers with vinaigrette to coat. Add arugula and pine nuts and toss again, then divide among plates. Top with stuffed mushrooms and serve immediately.
Per Serving: 334 Calories; 30g Fat (76.5% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 11mg Cholesterol; 118mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on February 11th, 2017.

apple_champ_custard_torte_whole

What this is, is unusual. Different. Not a typical torte. Not a typical custard. It’s kind of like an apple pie, but with a custard/champagne filling and a load of whipped cream on top, sprinkled liberally with unsweetened cocoa. It’s SO hard to describe. Was it good? Yes, indeed.

When Chef Caroline prepared this at a December cooking class, I said, wow, this looks like way too much work. And yes, it does require several steps of preparation. But, none of the steps are all that difficult. I suppose, the question always is, was it worth the effort? The finished piece of torte was excellent. I wrote “fabulous” on my recipe notes. Caroline had a long, rambling story to tell about acquiring the recipe from her friend Doris who is of German descent. And this friend, although a really good cook, doesn’t exactly cook with a recipe, so Caroline had to visit her house and watch, scribble, help and use more guesswork to write down the ingredients and quantities. She assured us it would be worth waiting for, and worth the effort to make. Tasting the finished product, I agree.

It starts with a 10-inch springform pan that’s lined with parchment and buttered (important). A pastry dough is made, but it’s not your standard pastry, either. It has baking powder in it and an egg – but it’s not a biscuit dough. Not a pie dough – maybe more like a thin cake, yet it’s NOT a cake batter, either. So hard to describe. If any of you are overly annoyed with my inability to describe this, well, you might have to make it and tell me. I haven’t tried to analyze the chemistry of the pastry to figure out what it really is. Caroline rolled out half the dough for the bottom of the springform, then rolled out rectangles to make the sides, then pressed the edges together in the pan. Clever, that girl! She thought Doris had difficulty with the dough too, so her solution was to do it in two parts. Then you slice Gala apples and place them on top of the dough.

apple_champ_custard_torte_slice

Picture at left is a piece of the torte, and the whipped cream topping slid right off the side. But at least you can see the consistency of the pudding part – read the next paragraph about that – it’s different!

In the meantime, you prepare the “custard,” which isn’t exactly a custard by normal standards – it’s a kind of a pudding made with Dr. Oetker’s packaged vanilla pudding mix (Cost Plus has it and I found it in a 3-pack at Amazon), but instead of mixing it with milk, it’s made with Prosecco. Yes, Dr. Oetker Original Pudding Mix, Vanilla - 3 pcs.Prosecco. Or champagne. Or even sparkling cider would likely work (use a bit less sugar). So it’s a clear-looking (sort of) pudding – almost like a gelatin pudding, but it’s vanilla flavored, of course. See, I told you this dessert was unusual. Once it’s made, you pour it on top of the apples and into the oven the torte goes for about an hour. The oven is turned off and you leave it sit in the oven for 10 minutes, then you remove it to cool completely on a wire rack.

At this point you refrigerate it overnight. When ready to serve, whip up the heavy cream with a tablespoon of “vanilla sugar,” from a package you can find at Cost Plus. It’s also a Dr. Oetker product – available in multi-packs at Amazon. Spread that all over the top of the torte, then sprinkle unsweetened cocoa through a sieve (so it will distribute evenly) on top. You can also top with chocolate shavings if desired – or both. You don’t have to buy vanilla sugar to make this part – just add sugar and some vanilla instead.

What’s GOOD: although this might look like an extra-rich, heavy dessert, it isn’t. Making the pudding with Prosecco provides a light feeling to the torte. The pastry isn’t all that rich – the apples are good for us – and the only wicked part is the whipped cream on top. If you decide to make this, you’ll be glad you did. It looks gorgeous. What’s also GOOD is that it serves 12. Not very many desserts serve that many people. If you prefer, you can halve the recipe (to serve 6) and make it in a 7” springform pan.

What’s NOT: well, perhaps all the steps, but none are all that difficult. The pudding part is easy, actually with the packaged mix to help. Now I just need an excuse to make it myself – and have  12 people over in order to serve it all!

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Apple & Champagne Custard Torte

Recipe By: Caroline Cayaumazou, chef, Antoine’s, San Clemente
Serving Size: 12

PASTRY:
1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter — melted
1 large egg — beaten (or up to 1 1/2 eggs)
APPLE FILLING:
2 1/2 pounds apples — Gala (or Fuji), peeled, thinly sliced
A bowl of lightly salted water
CUSTARD PUDDING:
74 grams Dr. Oetker vanilla pudding mix — (instant type – 2 packages)
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 bottle Prosecco — or Champagne, or white sparkling wine
TOPPING:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar — (Dr. Oetker, a packet)
1 tablespoon cocoa — unsweetened

NOTES: Dr. Oetker products can be found online at Amazon (free shipping if you buy the multi-packs) and most Cost Plus stores (imported from Germany). The prepared pudding in this torte is not a true “cream” looking pudding – it’s made with sparkling wine, so it’s much less rich – but no less good!
1. PASTRY: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan with parchment paper and butter the sides only. In a medium sized bowl combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Make a well in the center and add the melted butter and egg. Mix with a fork until the dough comes together and then knead with your hands a few times to make the dough smooth.
2. Roll HALF the dough on a lightly floured tea towel to make a circle – slightly larger than 10″ to fit in the springform pan. With remaining HALF of the dough, roll into strips about 3″ wide and 6-7 inches long. You will have 2-3 pieces – enough to press onto the sides of the springform pan, and then press all the edges together so you have an even, filled-in pastry shell.
3. APPLES: As you prep the apples, place them in the bowl of lightly salted water. Remove apple slices to paper towels and blot dry. Place all the apple slices on top of the pastry.
4. PUDDING: In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar and vanilla pudding packets with about 1/2-cup of Prosecco. Then, in a medium saucepan, add the remaining Prosecco and bring to a boil. Whisk constantly as you add it to the pudding mixture and bring it to a boil again. Cook for 30 seconds and remove from heat. Pour evenly over the apples in the pastry. Bake the torte for 60 minutes. Turn off the oven heat and allow torte to sit in the oven for an additional 10 minutes, then remove to a rack and cool completely. Refrigerate the torte overnight, if possible.
5. TOPPING: Whip the heavy cream to stiff peaks and add the packaged Vanilla Sugar (or omit and just add your own quantity of sugar and vanilla). Whip until completely mixed in. Spread cream over the top of the torte. Using a sieve, sprinkle unsweetened cocoa powder all over the top of the torte and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
Per Serving: 381 Calories; 19g Fat (42.8% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 53g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 77mg Cholesterol; 122mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on February 6th, 2017.

pumpkin_cheesecake_trifle_bowlWhat a success this was! It’s a trifle – with layers of  angel food cake, whipped cream and a pumpkin-cream cheese mixture. Was it easy? Absolutely.

Nearly every year on Christmas Eve, we join family for a big dinner celebration (anywhere from 16-30 people) and to play that gift exchange where you can steal the gift up to 3 times. And every year my cousin Gary flies south from the Bay Area, to spend the holidays with me, and he has to eat GF.

So, my mission, always, is to bring a GF dessert – something kind of special, spectacular, and certainly one that tastes good. If you do a search for GF here on my blog, you’ll find any number of desserts I’ve made over the years.

This one was particularly good and for sure it was easy to make. A friend served it at a party I attended –and I went online – found this version at Mom on Timeout. I’d purchased an angel food cake mix, but realized that it contains flour. WELL! Had to improvise by making a GF angel food cake from a recipe I found at King Arthur. It was easy to make, used a dozen egg whites, and was really delicious all by itself. I had some GF all-purpose baking mix in my pantry, so it was an easy recipe to make.

Once that was cooled (several hours), I cut it up into flat pieces, mixed up the pumpkin and cream cheese mixture , whipped the cream, and hunted all over for my trifle bowl before finally finding it. Anyway, it went together in a jiffy once I had all the 3 things made. I sprinkled some cinnamon and nutmeg on top, and chilled it overnight. Except for making the GF angel food cake, this is Trish’s recipe.pumpkin_cheesecake_trifle_spoonful

I will definitely make this again. If Gary isn’t here, I’ll make it with a boxed angel food cake mix. Some company does make a GF angel food cake mix, but Gary said it’s AWFUL, so I scratched that idea, even if I’d been able to find it somewhere. With the extra pieces of angel food cake Gary and I swiped the two mixing bowls clean. Yum.

What’s GOOD: this was really special. I’ll definitely be making this again next fall, in October, probably. It’s easy. If you buy ready-made angel food cake, you’ll eliminate more steps and it’d be cinchy easy to put together. I love-love pumpkin in every shape and type, so it was probably a no-brainer I’d like it. Unless you succumbed to using Cool-Whip instead of the real cream.

What’s NOT: can’t think of a thing. Great recipe. Easy.

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

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Pumpkin Cheesecake Trifle

Recipe By: Mom on Time Out (blog)
Serving Size: 18

1 Angel Food Cake
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
16 ounces cream cheese — may use Light
15 ounces pumpkin puree — (not pumpkin pie filling)
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice — (plus extra for dusting the top)

NOTE: Pumpkin pie spice is a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice. If you don’t have it on your shelf, create your own blend.
1. Beat cream and powdered sugar together until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
2. In another bowl, beat cream cheese until light and fluffy.
3. Add pumpkin, brown sugar, vanilla extract and pumpkin pie spice and continue beating until thoroughly combined.
4. Fold in one third of the whipped cream. Cut Angel Food Cake into small pieces and line the bottom of your trifle dish with one third of the cake.
5. Layer with one third of the pumpkin mixture followed by one third of the remaining whipped cream. Repeat layers twice, finishing with remaining whipped cream.
6. Sprinkle with additional pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon, if desired. Cover with plastic wrap (use toothpick to hold the plastic wrap above the whipped cream) and refrigerate (overnight is fine) until ready to serve.
Per Serving: 310 Calories; 19g Fat (53.3% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 32g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 64mg Cholesterol; 257mg Sodium.

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Gluten-Free Angel Food Cake

Recipe By: King Arthur Flour
Serving Size: 14

3/4 cup gluten free baking mix — or 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons brown rice flour blend
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 cups egg whites — separated, yolks discarded or reserved for another use – up to 12 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract — or Fiori di Sicilia
3/4 cup superfine sugar — + 2 tablespoons

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and place the oven rack in its lowest position.
2. Whisk together and then sift the flour, cornstarch, and 3/4 cup sugar. Set aside. In a large, clean (grease-free) mixing bowl, beat together the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar until foamy.
3. Add the flavorings. Gradually increase the speed of the mixer and continue beating until the egg whites have increased in volume, and thickened.
4. Gradually beat in the 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar, a bit at a time, until the meringue holds soft peaks.
5. Gently fold in the sifted flour/sugar blend ¼ cup at a time, just until incorporated.
6. Spoon the batter into an ungreased 10″ round angel food pan. Gently tap the pan on the counter to settle the batter and remove any large air bubbles.
7. Bake the cake until it’s a deep golden brown, and the top springs back when pressed lightly, about 45 minutes.
8. Remove the cake from the oven and invert the pan onto the neck of a heatproof bottle or funnel, to suspend the cake upside down as it sets and cools, about 2 hours.
9. Remove the cake from the pan by running a thin spatula or knife around the edges of the pan, and turning the cake out onto a plate.
10. Cut the cake with a serrated knife or angel food cake comb. If it’s difficult to cut, wet the knife and wipe it clean between slices. Serve with whipped cream and fruit. Wrap any leftovers airtight, and store at room temperature.
Per Serving: 128 Calories; trace Fat (0.6% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 29g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 134mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, Miscellaneous, on February 1st, 2017.

tenderloin_w_mock_bearnaise

I do enjoy a good hunk of beef now and then. I had my share over the holidays – I think I had it 3 times (prime rib twice and this beef tenderloin once), and each time it was just fabulous. This one, with the super-tasty but lighter calorie mock Béarnaise was really special.

Probably I’d cook a small beef tenderloin occasionally, but it makes no sense to do it for one person! Costco has them at a decent price, but they’re huge – only useful for me if I were to have a really big dinner party! Some Costco stores offer beef tenderloin that’s already been cleaned and trimmed of the silverskin and sinews. That job takes awhile, especially if you don’t do it all the time.

The cooking instructor, Caroline, from Antoine’s Restaurant in San Clemente (CA) demonstrated  this at a cooking class. She said she was catering a dinner party for a client, and the wife asked if she could do a Béarnaise, but not a fat-laden one. So Caroline came up with the idea of this mock Béarnaise. I won’t sit here and type to you, that the sauce is just as good as a butter-driven Béarnaise, but it was surprisingly delicious. It had ALL the flavors of Béarnaise, but just not all the fat. Some yes, but not the usual amount. I really liked it, and I’d definitely make it. Even for a grilled steak, or any time you need a Béarnaise.

The tenderloin is so easy to do – you season the meat with salt, pepper and oil, sear it on all sides, then roast it in a hot oven for about 20-25 minutes, remove, tent it, let it sit for 10 minutes, cut and serve.

The sauce is made similarly to a regular Béarnaise, but it’s thickened with a little cornstarch, so it will hold together, AND you can make it the day ahead and just reheat it before serving. That’s a big help, so you wouldn’t have to do this as you’re roasting the meat and putting together the rest of the meal.

What’s GOOD: everything about this was delicious. The meat was great (tender, juicy) and the sauce was amazing – since it’s a whole lot lower in fat and calories than a regular Béarnaise. My hat’s off to Chef Caroline for coming up with this option for Béarnaise!

What’s NOT: nothing whatsoever. A great dish – both the meat and the sauce.

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

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Beef Tenderloin with Tarragon-Mustard Sauce

Recipe By: Caroline Cayaumazou, chef, Antoine’s, San Clemente
Serving Size: 6

MOCK BEARNAISE SAUCE:
3/4 cup vermouth
1/4 cup white Balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons shallots — minced
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon — chopped
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
1 1/2 tablespoons mustard — regular, coarse grain
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
BEEF:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 pounds beef tenderloin — center cut (trimmed of silverskin and sinews)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

NOTES: do buy a tenderloin that has been cleaned and trimmed of the silverskin. If you do it yourself, allow about 45-60 minutes time to complete it for a full tenderloin.
1. SAUCE: In a small saucepan place the vermouth, vinegar, shallots, tarragon and pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce quantity to about a third (solids and liquids combined). Strain and set aside.
2. In a 2-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add cornstarch and cook for one minute. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth and cream. Bring to a simmer. Add the vermouth mixture.
3. In a small bowl temper the egg yolks with about 2-3 T of the sauce, then add to the sauce. Whisk and stir over low heat for about a minute. Add the coarse-grain mustard and adjust seasonings. May be made up to a day ahead. Gently reheat just before serving.
4. BEEF: Preheat oven to 450°F. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Season the tenderloin with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, sear tenderloin on all sides for about 10 minutes total time.
5. Transfer tenderloin to a roasting pan and place in the hot oven. Roast until a meat thermometer registers 130°F for medium-rare, about 20-25 minutes.
6. Remove meat from the roasting pan and place on carving board. Tent lightly with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and then serve with the heated sauce, passing more at the table.
Per Serving: 840 Calories; 66g Fat (74.5% calories from fat); 45g Protein; 6g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 330mg Cholesterol; 182mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, on January 27th, 2017.

indian_chix_green_chiles

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile you already know that every so often I crave Indian food. This time it was chicken in a kind of yogurt-laden sauce with green chiles.

I read a blog called Indian Simmer. It’s a combo of several cooks, and when I read a recipe for a chicken curry mixture (with a long, unrecognizable Indian name) I vowed I’d make something similar. After a trip to the grocery store to buy Anaheim chiles, a Poblano chile, and a mild yellow chile, I dug into my freezer for chicken thighs, defrosted them in about an hour in their pouches by plunging them into a big bowl of cold water, weighted down to keep the bags submerged, and I was off and running.

Veering off the original recipe some, I didn’t use a pressure cooker, but I baked the mixture instead in a low oven, and as I mentioned above, I added a variety of chiles rather than just one kind as the recipe indicated. I also added a bit of chicken broth, AND some Madras curry powder.

I could have flame-grilled the chiles (for more flavor and to remove skins) but I was into “easy” not time consuming, so I just chopped them up raw, skins on. I used more chiles than the recipe indicated (so I could get more veggies into the dish), but they weren’t hot chiles, so it added more layers of flavor, and not capsicum heat. The finished dish was mildly hot, which was perfect for me.

The recipe made a lot, and I’ve had it 3 times since I made it, and I still have leftovers. I can’t freeze it as the chicken was frozen before – well, I could freeze it, but they say the chicken really deteriorates if you re-freeze it. The juices provided just a little bit of sauce to enhance the rice I poured in the bowl. I used very little rice (about 1/3 cup at most) but it gave great texture and very few carbs. If you’re feeding a carb-hungry family with this, obviously, use plenty of rice and you could also add more chicken broth and a sprinkling of flour to give the sauce a bit more thickening.

What’s GOOD: loved the chile flavor – there are ample chiles in this dish, but they were mild ones, so they provided very little heat to the dish. It was very satisfying, eating this – the chicken, chiles, rice and broth. Really good. Not off the charts good, but very tasty. I’d make it again. The yogurt (I always use full fat for Indian food) adds such a lovely creaminess to the dish.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. It was easy to make and baking it in the oven made it doubly easy since I didn’t have to stir it periodically. A reminder – don’t boil the finished dish once you add the yogurt, or the sauce will separate.

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

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Indian Green Chile Chicken Thigh Stew

Recipe By: Adapted from Indian Simmer blog, 2016
Serving Size: 6

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds — whole
1 medium yellow onion — diced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger — grated using the wide side of a box grater
3 cloves garlic — minced
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs — cut into 1″ cubes
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon Madras curry powder — optional
1 medium tomato — chopped
2 whole Anaheim chili pepper — seeded, chopped
1 large poblano chile — seeded, chopped
1 small yellow chile — seeded, chopped
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup cilantro — chopped
3/4 cup Greek yogurt, full-fat
More chopped cilantro for garnish
Basmati rice, to accompany

1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
2. Heat the oil and add the cumin seeds and wait until they begin to sizzle. Add the chopped onions and saute until translucent. Add in ginger and garlic and cook for about a minute.
3. Add chicken and salt and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the tomato and mix well. Add chicken broth, cilantro, curry powder and chilies and stir well. Cover and bake for about 45-55 minutes. Taste for seasonings. Add in yogurt and stir until thoroughly mixed in. Heat mixture slightly, but do not let it come to a complete simmer or it will separate.
4. Garnish with more cilantro and additional chopped chiles (if desired) and serve with basmati rice.
Per Serving: 319 Calories; 18g Fat (49.8% calories from fat); 31g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 125mg Cholesterol; 299mg Sodium.

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