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Here are the tastingspoons players. I’m in the middle (Carolyn). Daughter Sara on the right, and daughter-in-law Karen on the left. I started the blog in 2007, as a way to share recipes with my family. Now in 2021, I’ll still participate, but the two daughters are going to do more posting from here on out – well, I hope that’s not wishful thinking. They both lead very busy lives, so we’ll see.

We participate in an amazon program that rewards a little tiny $ something (pennies, really) if you purchase any books recommended (below), or buy products occasionally mentioned on the blog with an amazon link. 

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BOOK READING (from Carolyn):

I wrote up a post about this book: Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World: The Twin Towers, Windows on the World, and the Rebirth of New York by Tom Roston. Go read the full write-up if you’re interested. The book is a complete history of the famous restaurant on the 107th floor of one of the Twin Towers. It tells a detailed chronology of its inception, and all the various  parts that had to come together every day, three meals a day, plus some, to make a mammoth food machine run. I have no background in the restaurant biz, but found the story very interesting. Would make a great gift.

Also recently finished The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. The book goes backwards and forwards in time, from the 1600s in London with the day-to-day lives of a group of Jews (who had to be very careful about how they worshiped) to current day as an old house is discovered to hold a treasure-trove of historical papers. The story is mostly about a young woman, educated, a Jew, who is the scribe (in secret) to an aging religious leader (in a time when women would have been verboten to hold such a position). And about her own curiosity about her religion and how she eventually begins writing letters (using a male pseudonym) to various Jewish leaders abroad, questioning their religious beliefs. The book is extraordinarily long – not that that kept me from turning a single page! – and complex with the cast of characters from the 1600s and the cast in today’s world of highly competitive experts analyzing the ancient papers. Altogether riveting book. Loved it from beginning to end.

I’m forever reading historical novels. The Lost Jewels: A Novel by Kirsty Manning is a mystery of sorts, going back in time in London in the time of aristocrats and their jewels (pearls, diamonds, gems of all kinds) sometimes made it into the hands of the digger or a maid. Then to current time as a young woman tries to ferret her family history and particularly about some old-old jewelry that they can’t quite figure out – how the grandmother came to have them. Fascinating tale.

Not for the faint of heart, Boat of Stone: A Novel by Maureen Earl tells the true tale of some misplaced Jews at the tale-end of WWII who ended up on Mauritius, held captive in a woe begotten prison. It’s about Jewish history, about relationships, and certainly a lot about the starvation and mistreatment (and many died there) of this boat load of people who never should have been sent there. So very sad, but it has bright and hopeful moments toward the end when many of them finally made it to Tel Aviv, their original destination.

Colleen Hoover has written quite a book, It Ends with Us: A Novel, with a love story being the central theme, but again, this book is not for everyone – it can be an awakening for any reader not acquainted with domestic violence and how such injury can emerge as innocent (sort of) but then become something else. There is graphic detail here (was it really necessary? not sure of the answer) so if you don’t like that sort of thing, you might want to pass on this – or else skip by those details when you read it. Women have been victims in so many ways for so many centuries, and it’s hard to read that it’s still a common thing in today’s society.

Barbara Delinsky writes current day fiction. Coast Road is really sweet story. Jack (ex-husband) is called away from his career to care for his two daughters when his ex (Rachel) has an accident and is in a coma. Over the course of weeks, he spends time with his daughters (he was an occasional dad). He also spends a lot of time at his ex’s bedside, getting to know her friends. Through them he learns what went wrong in their marriage. I don’t want to spoil the story. I liked it a lot.

Christina Baker Kline has written quite a story about Tasmania. You may, or may not, remember that my DH and I visited Tasmania about 10 years ago (loved it) and having read a lot about Botany Bay and the thousands of criminal exiles from Britain who were shipped there as slave labor in the 1800s. This book tells a different story. The Exiles: A Novel. This one mostly from a few women who were sentenced to Tasmania. There is plenty of cruelty on several fronts, but there is also kindness and salvation for some. Really good read.

Erin Bartels wrote quite a complex story in The Words between Us: A Novel. We go alongside a young girl as she goes to high school, trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) to be anonymous (because her mother and father are both in prison), taking on a fake name. She meets a guy and they share a bond of reading and some romance. Years go by and she’s now owner of a failing independent bookstore (and married, or separated) and suddenly begins receiving a used book (that she recognizes) every day from a different place in the country. A message for sure, but where will it lead? Yes, it’s a romance. Lots of introspection going on. Enjoyed it.

Marion Kummerow wrote an amazing WWII novel. Not Without My Sister. If you don’t like concentration camp stories, pass on this one, but it’s very riveting, much of it at Bergen-Belsen. Two sisters (17 and 4) are separated at the camp. The story switches back and forth between the two sisters’ situations, and yes, the horror of the camp(s), the starvation, the cruelty. But, even though I’m giving away the ending . . . they do get back together again. The story is all about the in between times. Excellent book.

Nicolas Barreau’s novel Love Letters from Montmartre: A Novel  is very poignant, very sweet book. Seems like I’ve read several books lately about grieving; this one has a charming ending, but as anyone who has gone through a grave loss of someone dear knows, you can’t predict day to day, week to week. “Snap out of it,” people say, thinking they’re helping. This book is about a young man, who is a young father also, loses his beloved wife. He’s barely functioning, trying to get through a day, taking care of his young son. And visiting the cemetery (the one in Montmartre, Paris). There are several peripheral characters (his son, a neighbor and best friend of his departed wife, a good fellow friend too, plus a young woman he befriends at the cemetery). Before his wife’s death she asks him to write 33 letters to her after she’s gone, and to put them in a special box hidden in the cemetery monument. And that begins the story.

Another very quirky book, that happens to contain a lot of historical truth is The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World: A Novel by Harry N. Abrams. Set in Japan just after the tsunami 10 years ago when 18,000 people died. At a private park miles away, some very special people installed a phone booth, with a phone (that didn’t work) at the edge of the park, and the survivors of the tsunami began wending their way there to “talk” to their deceased loved ones. Very poignant story.

As you’ve read here many times, I marvel at authors who come up with unusual premises for their books. This one Meet Me in Monaco: A Novel of Grace Kelly’s Royal Wedding. And yes, it IS somewhat about Grace Kelly’s wedding, but most of the novel is about a young woman perfume designer, Sophie, who accidentally rescues Grace Kelly from the relentless photographers who hound her every move.

No question, the most quirky book I’ve read of late, a recommendation from my friend Karen, West with Giraffes: A Novel by Lynda Rutledge. Back in the 1930s a small group of giraffes were brought across the Atlantic from Africa to New York, destined for the then-growing San Diego Zoo. The story is of their journey across the United States in the care of two oh-so-different people, both with a mission.

Also a kind of quirky book by Beth Miller, The Missing Letters of Mrs. Bright. Picture a middle-aged woman, slogging through life with a not-very-attentive husband, grown children, and one day she decides to leave. Completely. Packs up and leaves.

Katherine Center’s book, Things You Save in a Fire: A Novel is certainly vivid. There aren’t very many women firefighters out there in the world – this is about one.

Riveting story of post-WWII- Japan in Ana Johns novel, The Woman in the White Kimono: A Novel. About a young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American serviceman.

Also read Rishi Reddi’s novel, Passage West: A Novel with a very different take on the migration of Indians (East India) to the California agricultural lands east of San Diego during the 1920s and 30s.

Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but the Mary Morris book, A Very Private Diary: A Nurse in Wartime tells the true day to day life of a young Irish girl who becomes a nurse, in England, France and Belgium in the midst of WWII and immediately after the war.

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. Tells the harrowing story of a young boy, Odie, (and his brother Albert) who became orphans back in the 30s. At first there is a boarding school, part of an Indian (Native American) agreement, though they are not Indian. They escape, and they are “on the run.”

Just finished Kristin Hannah’s latest book, The Four Winds: A Novel. What a story. One I’ve never read about, although I certainly have heard about the “dust bowl” years when there was a steady migration of down-and-out farmers from the Midwest, to California, for what they hoped to be the American Dream. It tells the story of one particular family, the Martinellis, the grandparents, their son, his wife, and their two children.

Brit Bennett has written quite a book, The Vanishing Half: A Novel. It’s a novel, yet I’m sure there are such real-life situations. Twin girls are born to a young black woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress.  Very much worth reading.

Also read The Secret of the Chateau: Gripping and heartbreaking historical fiction with a mystery at its heart by Kathleen McGurl. There are two stories here. The historical part is just prior to and up to the French Revolution, and the second in current day as a group of friends purchase a crumbling chateau. Very interesting. I love historical novels like this, and this one in particular does have quite a mystery involved, too.

Also finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s recent book, The Book of Longings: A Novel. It is a book that might challenge some Christian readers, as it tells the tale of Jesus marrying a woman named Mary. I loved the book from the first word to the last one. The book is believable to me, even though the Bible never says one way or the other that Jesus ever married. It’s been presumed he never did. But maybe he did?

Jeanine Cummins has written an eye-opener, American Dirt. A must read. Oh my goodness. I will never, ever, ever look at Mexican (and further southern) migrants, particularly those who are victims of the vicious cartels, without sympathy. It tells the story of a woman and her young son, who were lucky enough to hide when the cartel murdered every member of her family – her husband, her mother, and many others. It’s about her journey and escape to America.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice joins the Horseback Librarians in the rural south.

Frances Liardet has written a blockbuster tale, We Must Be Brave. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Although the scene is WWII England, this book is not really about the war. It’s about the people at home, waiting it out, struggling with enough food, clothing and enough heat.

William Kent Krueger wrote Ordinary Grace. From amazon: a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God. It’s a coming of age story.

Follow the River: A Novel by James Alexander Thom. This one is also based on the history of a woman (married, pregnant) who was captured by the Shawnee, during the early settlement days east of the Ohio River, about 1755. And her eventual escape.

A Column of Fire: A Novel by Ken Follett. It takes place in the 1500s, in England, and has everything to do with the war between the Catholics and the Protestants, that raged throughout Europe during that time, culminating in the Spanish Inquisition.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This is a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, who becomes a shepherd. Not just any-old shepherd – actually a well educated one. He knows how to weave a story.

 

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 Beverages, Brunch, on September 20th, 2021.

What’s different about this one? Mostly it’s about the lime juice.

A post from Carolyn. For several years now I’ve subscribed to a magazine that, on the surface, if you know me, wouldn’t be one you’d think I’d read – it’s called Garden & Gun. Yes, about gardens and guns. But, the gun part usually comprises one page in each issue, and gardens maybe 4-6 pages. But in between all those other pages are interesting essays on a variety of things South. Everything from an article about a dog, about travel in our Southern states, and certainly some pages of home décor and food. The truth of the matter is that I don’t garden. And I have little to no interest in guns. But those other pages do interest me.

Julia Reed was a venerable icon in the food world. She died of cancer some years ago and has been missed sorely by so many others in the food arena. In a recent issue of Garden & Gun the editor wrote a tribute to Julia Reed, and about why he love-loves Julia Reed’s mother’s recipe of the mixture.  Looking at it – the recipe – it didn’t seem to contain anything very different than any other one I’ve read. I’m surely not a connoisseur of Bloody Marys, but for whatever reason the article prompted me to make them one evening when I invited friends over for dinner.

First off, I needed a lot of limes – so I bought those little net bags of them (3 bags, in fact, about 8-10 in each one) and used all but about 3 individual limes to get enough lime juice (about 3/4 cup) to serve 4 people. What this recipe does contain is a bit more lime juice than most other recipes. You might think it would overpower the drink; it didn’t. Not at all. I’d purchased a “better” brand of canned (bottled) tomato juice. What would make it “better,” I cannot tell you – I did look at the nutrition to see about the sodium in the bottle. None of them were low sodium, but I wasn’t going to buy the run-of-the-mill brand and sought a different label. It was probably $.20 higher than Campbell’s.

The recipe suggested celery stalks and pickled okra as garnishes. Well, I didn’t want to spend over $5.00 for a jar of pickled okra that probably would never be eaten after that day, so I bought dehydrated okra and put one in each glass (see the one sticking up in the left glass in the photo above?). Once it soaked in the Bloody Mary for 5-10 minutes, it was still crunchy on the inside and semi-soft on the outside. It was good. Not pickled, however.

Making the mixture was certainly easy – adding the tomato juice, the lime juice, a ton of Worcestershire sauce, a little bit of salt (I scanted the quantity), a dollop of prepared horseradish, some pepper plus some Tabasco. And of course, some vodka. My friend Cherrie’s husband Bud did the honors of adding the vodka, pouring and handing out the drinks.

What’s GOOD: what can I say? – I thought it was a really good Bloody Mary. I liked the amount of lime juice – it didn’t make you pucker-up – it was just right. I could taste the Worcestershire, which I liked. Loved the dehydrated okra in it (and the remaining ones will be eaten because it makes a good veggie snack). Altogether good recipe, and yes, if and when I make Bloody Marys again, I’ll definitely use this recipe.

What’s NOT: only that you need to procure the various ingredients (have them chilled).

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

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Bloody Mary Mix from Julia Reed

Recipe By: Julia Reed’s mother, Judy, via Garden & Gun
Serving Size: 4

3 cups tomato juice — NOT V-8
5/8 cup lime juice — freshly squeezed
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 dashes Tabasco sauce — or other hot sauce, or more if you like it spicy
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt — optional if the juice is high in sodium
1/2 tablespoon prepared horseradish
Cracked pepper
Vodka, to taste
GARNISHES: celery sticks, pickled okra (or dehydrated okra), lime wheel

1. Stir together first 6 ingredients. Add cracked pepper to taste. Refrigerate in an airtight container up to 3 days.
2. Pour vodka in each glass, pour in the Bloody Mary mix and top with a stem of celery with plenty of leaves, a piece of pickled okra (or a dehydrated one, submerged in the Bloody Mary) and a wheel of fresh lime.
Per Serving (not including the vodka): 55 Calories; 1g Fat (7.9% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 1118mg Sodium; 7g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 43mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 582mg Potassium; 51mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Breads, Brunch, on August 30th, 2021.

Tender coffeecake with a streak of cocoa and cinnamon in the middle.

Surprising to me that I’d not posted this recipe before, since it’s been in my recipe arsenal since the 1960s, when my first husband’s grandmother, Ethel, served this one day for a mid-morning Sunday breakfast. I was taken with it then, and still have the same liking of it now.

During many Christmas mornings in years past I’ve made this coffeecake, arising early to put it together quickly, because the night before I’d set out everything I could, made the topping and set it aside, let the butter warm on the countertop to make it easy to beat into the sugar and egg mixture. This requires 2 cups of sour cream – wow! I wonder if half could be substituted with buttermilk, and soda added? I wasn’t willing to make substitutions this time because I had a group of women coming over to listen to me talk about a recent favorite book, This Tender Land: A Novel by William Kent Krueger. (If you’re interested in the book, go to my sidebar, it’s listed there at the moment with a little snippet about the story.)

This makes a 9×13 pan full of coffeecake – and depending upon how you cut it, it could serve at least 20 if not more. It’s rich, but not decadent type of rich. Has the little streak of cocoa/cinnamon/sugar through it and more on top. It’s not at all difficult – you make the topping and set it aside. Then the batter goes together and you pour half of it into the greased pan, then sprinkle half the topping over it, then the remaining batter, and the remaining topping sprinkled all over the top. Use a knife to swirl a little – you can see the imprint of the knife as I swirled all over the coffeecake. Into a 350° oven it goes and 45 minutes later it’s done.

What’s GOOD: the cake part is so very tender, and love the little bit of cocoa in it. It’s not overpoweringly chocolate – just a scent of it in each bite. Altogether delicious. It’s been a “keeper” of mine for over 60 years.

What’s NOT: absolutely nothing at all.

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

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Chocolate Sour Cream Coffeecake

Recipe By: Grandma Bruce, grandmother of my first husband
Serving Size: 16

TOPPING:
4 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
BATTER:
4 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 pound butter — or margarine, softened
2 cups sugar
4 whole eggs
2 cups sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla

NOTES: This was a family favorite on Christmas morning. I think I usually added more cocoa because I liked it with a more chocolate flavor. The night before I’d mix up everything I could so it wouldn’t take too much time to get it into the oven.
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In separate bowl combine topping: cocoa, sugar and cinnamon and set aside.
3. Combine margarine, sugar, eggs, vanilla and sour cream in mixer and mix well. Then add flour, baking powder, cream of tartar and soda.
4. Pour half of the batter into an oiled 9×13 pan, then sprinkle half of the topping over it, then pour in remaining batter. Use a knife and swirl the batter a little, then sprinkle remaining topping on top. Bake for 45 minutes.
Per Serving: 431 Calories; 18g Fat (36.5% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 64g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 91mg Cholesterol; 366mg Sodium; 38g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 132mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 111mg Potassium; 198mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Brunch, Vegetarian, on December 7th, 2019.

potato_pie_montlucon_slice

Montluçon just means this pie’s origins are French. This is a marvelous brunch dish, or hearty entrée for a holiday breakfast. Or a light Sunday supper, even.

Having made this about 4-5 months ago and having taken pictures of it, I was finally getting around to doing something with the photos. I thought I’d posted this recipe years and years ago – because I’ve been making this forever (I believe I made this the first time in 1981), and I was going to update the photos. But I certainly can’t find any post on my blog about it. I served it to a group of friends who came to my house to watch a movie. It was a fund-raising event I did for my P.E.O. chapter in which they bid on coming to my home to watch The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society movie. Our book group had read it a few years ago, and the movie is available on amazon prime (I think that’s where I found it) and I’d serve lunch. So, I prepared a meal suitable for the movie title – potato pie.

The recipe came from an ancient French cookbook I had (or still have somewhere) from Sunset Magazine. How many times have I made it? Probably 15-20 times. It was a frequent entrée I served over the years when Dave and I did brunch on our boat. We’d invite a group of friends (4 guests plus us) for an early morning sail on a Saturday or Sunday (after church), we’d brew up a big pot of strong coffee, I’d have fresh fruit, maybe sausages, maybe a green salad, and after we’d enjoyed a late morning brunch I’d serve some kind of dessert. And champagne would be a featured item on the menu. Normally I prepared the pie the night before, let it sit out on the kitchen counter overnight to cool, took it to the boat and reheated it in the small oven onboard. Once heated I’d pour in the additional cream through the little window in the piecrust that was called for in the recipe, let the cream soak in a bit, then slice it and serve.

potato_pie_wholeThere’s nothing all that unusual about it – a rich, buttery pie crust is made. You can use the most recent pie crust recipe I posted in 2018 that uses some cornstarch. It was a winner of a recipe. You’ll need to double the recipe to get enough for a top crust too. The top crust is important – it holds in the moisture so the potatoes steam-cook. Do notice, there is no cheese in this recipe.

The potatoes are thinly sliced (use the food processor so they’re evenly sliced, or a hand-held slicer), layered with salt and pepper, then the top crust is affixed. Cut a hole in the center so the steam can escape and pour in most of the cream. Bake until golden brown, then when you’ve removed it from the oven you add the extra cream, as I mentioned. Be sure to use enough salt – potatoes require a LOT of it.

What’s GOOD: can be made ahead and reheated. Wonderful flavor. Rich. Hearty. Different.

What’s NOT: only if you’re on a carb-restricted diet, it wouldn’t be so good for you! This is a tried and true recipe. Surprisingly it doesn’t have all that many calories – moderate fat grams, however.

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

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Potato Pie Montlucon

Recipe By: old Sunset magazine cookbook about France
Serving Size: 8

2 each pie crusts (9 inch) — to make one double crust pie
4 1/2 cups russet potatoes — thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons onion — minced
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter

1. Prepare the pastry dough. I use a short crust dough, make one half slightly larger than the other and chill. Roll out the larger piece to fit into a 9-inch pie pan, or a 9-inch cake pan, or even a springform pan.
2. In a large bowl mix together the sliced potatoes, onion, salt and pepper. Arrange the potatoes compactly in the pastry shell. Pour in 3/4 cup of heavy cream and dot the potatoes with the 1 T. of butter.
3. Roll out the remaining pastry and fit over the potatoes, sealing the edges. Cut a 1-inch diameter round hole in the center of the pastry. Brush top of pastry with some of the remaining heavy cream, which gives it a lovely glaze.
4. Preheat oven to 375°, and bake the pie, uncovered, for an hour and 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender. Remove from the oven and pour (through the hole in the middle) as much of the remaining cream as the pie will hold. Allow it to sit for a few minutes, then cut into wedges and serve.
5. If making this ahead, do not add the cream at the end, but cool the pie, cover and refrigerate until the next day. Reheat the pie in a 350° oven for 50 minutes. Then add the cream and allow to sit for just a minute of two to allow the cream to absorb. Cut into wedges and serve.
Per Serving: 384 Calories; 25g Fat (57.2% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 37g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 45mg Cholesterol; 456mg Sodium.

Posted in Brunch, on December 19th, 2018.

bacon_egg_breakfast_tart

Every December a group of girlfriends get together for breakfast at one of our homes. It was my turn.

The rest of the year, every couple of weeks, we meet at a Corner Bakery and catch up with our lives, our children, grandchildren, our dogs and cats, our travels, our reading and just general “life.” We’ve been meeting for about 35 years. Since we meet quite early, I needed to make something that I could complete likkety-split. This seemed like a good recipe to make that happen.

First you begin with a sheet of defrosted puff pastry. It is rolled out a little bit more than it is as it comes in the box, but didn’t require much to get it to an 8×10 size. Onto the baking sheet it went. With a sharp knife you score a line all around the outside edge of the puff pastry – this allows the edge to rise up (and kind of become a ridge/rim so the filling doesn’t leak out). Then I mixed up some crème fraiche and a bunch of grated Gruyere cheese. That was spread all over the interior of the puff pastry. Into a hot oven it went for about 14 minutes. I waited until all of my friends were here before I put this in the oven. When it came out of the oven at that point the filling part was golden brown all over and smelled lovely! Onto the top I placed about 4-5 slices of already crisped bacon, cut into little pieces, then I cracked 3 eggs. At this point you time it carefully – 7-10 minutes back in the oven to make the eggs sunny-side up. At 7 minutes the whites were still not cooked. At 9 minutes they were done, maybe even over-done. Then you use a knife to cut kind of irregular pieces, giving each person a bunch of the pastry/bacon part and one egg. Oh, I hadn’t sprinkled the top with chives when I snapped the photo.

bacon_egg_tart_before_baking_eggsThere’s a photo after I’d cracked the eggs onto the tart. One yolk broke and it wasn’t very pretty (I ate that one). If I did this again, I’d probably try to get 4 eggs onto the piece – the recipe said it fed 4, but you only put 3 eggs onto the sheet. Strange. I’ve adjusted the recipe below for that. I’d recommend large or even medium eggs and do try to get 4 onto the tart. I made both sheets of puff pastry and then had 6 eggs altogether – should have done 8. And no, I didn’t eat any of the puff pastry – I ate the egg and bacon only and got some of the cheesy mixture too underneath the eggs. All the guests enjoyed it. The cheese added just a great flavor to the whole tart. This could be something you’d make on Christmas morning. Grate the cheese the night before and mix it  up with the crème fraiche. You could even do the bacon the day before too. Then it’s just a matter of rolling out the pastry, chilling it for 15 minutes, it said, then you put the toppings on and bake. The other thing I would do – making this again – I have 2 ovens – I would have used both, because even with switching the 2 pans halfway through and turning them around, one sheet didn’t cook up as nicely golden brown.

What’s GOOD: easy to make, really. Lovely presentation. It looked better once I had the chives sprinkled all over the top. Some of my guests didn’t eat the egg yolk, but they ate everything else around it and the pastry. I served this with fresh fruit (blueberries, raspberries and blackberries) and I had some slices of Dario’s Olive Oil Cake with Rosemary and Pine Nuts in the freezer, and since it’s not a very sweet cake, I thought it would work well with the breakfast. It did. I served mimosas and hot coffee.

What’s NOT: nothing really, except planning ahead to defrost the puff pastry for 24 hours before making this. And don’t use extra large eggs – even medium eggs would be good. I used large. Watch the eggs carefully during the 7-10 minute cooking time. Mine went from not done at 7 minutes to over-done at 9 minutes. But then, everyone’s oven is different.

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

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Bacon and Egg Breakfast Tart

Recipe By: adapted slightly from Williams-Sonoma
Serving Size: 4

1 sheet puff pastry
1 egg — lightly beaten with 1 tsp. water
3 ounces crème fraîche
2 ounces Gruyère cheese — shredded
Salt and freshly ground pepper — to taste
8 bacon slices — cooked until crisp
4 large eggs — or medium sized if you have them
10 fresh chives — cut on the bias into 1/2-inch lengths

1. Thaw puff pastry dough according to package instructions, usually 24 hours, left in the box.
2. Preheat an oven to 425°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
3. On lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to 1/4-inch thickness and to a 10-by-8-inch rectangle. Place the pastry on the prepared baking sheet. Using a paring knife, score a border 1/2 inch in from the edge of the pastry. Using a fork, prick the center of the pastry. Brush the border with the egg wash and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
4. In a small bowl, stir together the crème fraîche and cheese, and season with pepper. The bacon will add enough salt, but you can also sprinkle salt on top at the end.
5. Spread the crème fraîche mixture on the pastry, keeping the border clean. Lay the bacon pieces on top, scattered all over. Bake the tart for 14 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking.
6. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and place it on a level heatproof surface. Using a fork, prick any large air pockets in the pastry. Crack the eggs onto the tart, spacing them 2 inches apart. Bake until the egg whites are set and the yolks are still soft, 7 to 10 minutes.
7. Transfer the tart to a platter, garnish with the chives and serve in irregular pieces so each person is served an egg.
Per Serving: 625 Calories; 47g Fat (67.5% calories from fat); 21g Protein; 29g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 311mg Cholesterol; 500mg Sodium.

Posted in Breads, Brunch, on April 13th, 2018.

budapest_coffeecake_slice

Lovely, tasty coffeecake with a cinnamon and nut filling, made in a Bundt pan.

It’s been years now, I’ve been on a quest. A friend and I went on a Los Angeles gourmet crawl of some kind. It was daytime, and we visited a variety of restaurants and food emporiums. When we paused at a catering place in Santa Monica (I think it was) they served us each a little slice of a Hungarian coffee cake. I was smitten. I asked if they’d share the recipe. Uh, NO. That coffeecake didn’t look like this coffeecake, I’m sorry to say – it was much darker colored batter/cake. It was made in either a Bundt or a tube pan and it had cinnamon in it, some nuts too. It was just so divine. Ever since (and this has been 25 or more years ago) I’ve looked in cookbooks at the library, on the internet, etc. to try to find a recipe for a dark battered coffee cake. But when I looked at THIS recipe I thought well, definitely not a dark batter, but it sounded good nonetheless.

budapest_coffeecake_wholeThe recipe came from Food52, and is credited to Maida Heatter, that diva of all things sweet, and comes from a 1999 cookbook she published. I followed the recipe to a T; however, I’ve made one little change in the directions. When served, as I cut my fork into the cake, it toppled over right where the filling was – because the filling was dry and unto itself. So I’ve added one step – running a knife through the batter and filling layer to help adhere the cake and filling together. Obviously I didn’t do that with the one I made, but it’s such a minor change, you might not even be aware of it. Hopefully, the cake will hold together better.

The filling consists of cinnamon, cocoa, nuts, dark brown sugar and some chopped up raisins. As you layer the sour cream rich batter in the greased Bundt pan, you sprinkle on the filling. Just run your knife through as you add each layer of filling. I didn’t use quite all of the dry filling. It’s baked for 50-60 minutes (I’d lean toward 60 if you make this yourself). I used the toothpick test, but found when I served it that the cake toward the center was still quite wet – I took my cake out of the oven at 50 minutes. Anyway, the cake is cooled, then plated and drizzled with an easy icing.

What’s GOOD: my favorite part was the filling, and the raisins in it. They add a special bit of sweetness. It’s a nice batter – not overly moist, actually, considering there’s 2 cups of sour cream in the batter. The cake part is relatively nondescript, as it’s the filling that makes it.

What’s NOT: nothing really.

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

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Maida Heatter’s Budapest Coffee Cake

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts, 1999
Serving Size: 12

NUT FILLING:
3/4 cup dark brown sugar — firmly packed
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
3 tablespoons raisins — coarsely chopped (dark or golden)
1 cup toasted walnuts — finely chopped
CAKE BATTER:
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 ounces butter — (1 1/2 sticks) at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs — at room temperature
2 cups sour cream — at room temperature
ICING:
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons hot milk — (2 to 3)
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. NUT FILLING: In a small bowl, mix together all of the ingredients. Set aside.
2. CAKE: Preheat the oven to 350° F and butter a 10-inch Bundt pan.
3. Into a large bowl, sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Using a paddle attachment of a stand mixer, cream the butter. Add 2 teaspoons of the vanilla and the sugar and beat on medium speed for a minute or two.
4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating each until just incorporated. Scrape down sides of bowl, as necessary, to keep mixture smooth. Beat at high speed until mixture is light and creamy, about 1 minute.
5. Turn mixer to low speed. Add dry ingredients in three additions and sour cream in two additions, beating only until smooth after each addition.
6. Spread a thin layer of batter in bottom of prepared pan. Sometimes it’s easier to use a small spoon to drop some batter into pan, and then to smooth it together. Top with 1/3 of nut mixture. Run a knife, zigzagging slightly through the batter. Repeat until you have 4 layers of batter into pan and smooth it together. Use a knife to zigzag once with each layer of filling. Top layer will be batter and it’s not necessary to run the knife through that layer.
7. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until cake tester inserted in center of cake comes clean. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes, then turn out and re-invert on a rack.
8. Combine confectioners’ sugar, hot milk, and remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in a small bowl. Mix well. Mixture should have the consistency of a thick cream sauce. Place a sheet of wax paper underneath a cooling rack. Pour glaze over cake, letting it run down the sides, while still hot. When glaze is set, transfer cake to a serving plate. Serve cake warm or at room temp.
Per Serving: 611 Calories; 27g Fat (39.1% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 86g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 101mg Cholesterol; 470mg Sodium.

Posted in Breads, Brunch, on February 24th, 2018.

ban_choc_walnut_coffeecake

Oh, dear, do I overuse the word “yummy?” I hope not. This is a time to use the word. I try to use different descriptors for my blog food, so you get a sense of how it tastes. This recipe is a keeper.

One of my book groups was meeting here at my house, and I reviewed the book, The Last Midwife, a wonderful historical novel about the 1880s in a small mining town in the Colorado Rockies. About Gracy, an older woman who has been a midwife since she was 10 years old. A crime rocks the town and Gracy is blamed (she isn’t guilty, but only the reader knows that). Currently, the book is written up on my sidebar if you want more info, but it will disappear from there in a month or two as I add newer books to my “currently reading” section. It’s a great book and with lots to talk about – the hardships of mountain, pioneer life. Many  interesting characters to discuss too.

Anyway, I made this coffeecake for the group, and oh gosh, was it ever good. It has 2 banana batter layers and 2 walnut/chocolate layers – as you can kind-a see in the photo. Sorry my photo was a little blurry on the bottom . . .I was in a hurry! It was very easy to make. According to my notes, it was from an old Gourmet magazine back in 2008. The riper the bananas, the better the flavor. Mine weren’t as ripe as I would have liked, but at least they weren’t green!

The cake took longer than expected to bake – the recipe said 35-40 minutes, but it took 50 minutes for me. I used my instant read thermometer to make sure – once it reaches 190°F it’s done sufficiently. I let it cool in the pan for about 20 minutes, but then I HAD to cut it into squares to serve it. It was still quite warm, but once out on a pretty platter it cooled enough for everyone to eat. I heard lots of uhmmmms and ahhhs. Including my own murmuring.

What’s GOOD: the banana flavor is certainly there. Which is good – it has that kind of speckled look (as in banana bread, you know what I mean). Loved the scent of cinnamon, and the crunchy walnuts and of course, the chocolate, which isn’t predominant, but you definitely know it’s got chocolate in it. Altogether delicious. I’d definitely make it again.

What’s NOT: only that you do dirty a few bowls in the making of it. None of the steps is hard or time consuming.

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Banana Chocolate Walnut Coffeecake

Recipe By: Gourmet Mag, Feb. 2008
Serving Size: 12

BANANA BATTER:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter — softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups bananas — mashed very ripe (about 3 medium)
2/3 cup yogurt — full fat
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
TOPPING:
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter — melted and cooled
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate — 70%-cacao, coarsely chopped [I used bittersweet chocolate chips]
1 cup walnuts — toasted, cooled, and coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Butter a 9-inch square cake pan. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
2. Beat together softened butter (1 stick) and 3/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in eggs 1 at a time until blended. Beat in bananas, yogurt, and vanilla (mixture will look curdled).
3. With mixer at low speed, add flour mixture and mix until just incorporated.
4. Toss together chocolate, nuts, cinnamon, melted butter, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a small bowl. Spread half of banana batter in cake pan and sprinkle with half of chocolate mixture. Spread remaining batter evenly over filling and sprinkle remaining chocolate mixture on top pressing slightly to adhere the topping to the batter.
5. Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 40 – 50 minutes or until the cake reaches an internal temp fo 195°F. Cool cake in pan on a rack 30 minutes, then turn out onto rack and cool completely, right side up. When you upend the coffeecake some of the topping may fall off. Cut into small squares.
Per Serving: 391 Calories; 22g Fat (48.7% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 45g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 63mg Cholesterol; 215mg Sodium.

Posted in Brunch, IP, pressure cooker, on February 12th, 2018.

IP_crustless_quiche_lorraine_spinach

Goodness, me. This was so easy to make. I could even make this for myself for dinner, and then have leftovers.

Christmas morning I usually make something special for breakfast. My cousin Gary was visiting, and although he wasn’t feeling very good, still he knew he should eat, so I whipped this up in the IP. It was my first IP recipe I tried, and it turned out really well. My cousin has to eat GF, so going crustless was the way to go anyway. I was perfectly happy with the results.

I did research using the IP for quiche, but found several recipes, so I knew it was a successful thing to try. I had some baby spinach in the refrigerator that needed eating anyway, so I kind of combined two recipes and made it a quiche Lorraine style but with added spinach. Daughter Sara gave me an IP cookbook called Instant Pot® Obsession: The Ultimate Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook for Cooking Everything Fast. This recipe, with my modifications, came from that book.

The quiche ingredients were standard, starting with some thick sliced bacon that I sautéed for awhile to get it rendered out and crispy. There was hardly any fat in the pan anyway since the bacon I used was so meaty. The onion was cooked through, then I cooled and cleaned the IP pot. Meanwhile I mixed up the quiche ingredients (eggs, milk, cream, S & P, Emmental cheese, spinach) and the bacon and onion, of course. The rack is inserted into the IP, then the quiche, loosely covered with foil (you don’t want steam to get in there – it would ruin the chemistry of the quiche). It was pressure cooked for 10 minutes, rested for 10, then quick released.

IP_crustless_quiche_lorraine_spinach_wedgeI’d shredded a bit of extra Emmental and sprinkled more of it on top and stuck it under the oven broiler, just so it would have a bit of color. One thing about pressure cooking . . . you can’t get good color unless  you brown things before, or broil them after. It took no time at all to broil it for a few minutes. I let it rest for a couple of minutes because it was so hot, then cut into 4 portions and served it along with some yogurt and fruit.

What’s GOOD: it was basically a 2-dish prep (IP pot plus the ceramic baking dish) so there was easy cleanup. Loved the quiche. It may not have had the same consistency as a traditional oven-baked quiche – almost like eggs done in the microwave – but it was good and hit the spot. I liked the addition of spinach, even though it’s not traditional for a Lorraine type quiche.

What’s NOT: nothing really, unless you really miss the crust.

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

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IP Crustless Quiche Lorraine with Spinach

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Instant Pot Obsession
Serving Size: 4

1 teaspoon butter — (for coating baking dish)
3 slices bacon — chopped
1 small onion — sliced thin and chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup fresh spinach — coarsely chopped
3 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon white pepper — or black
1 1/4 cups Emmental cheese — or Gruyere, or other Swiss type
1 cup water — for steaming
TOPPING:
1/3 cup Emmental cheese — or Gruyere, or other Swiss type

1. Prepare a 1-quart round baking dish (that fits in the IP) and coat the bottom and sides with the room temp butter.
2. Using the IP saute function render the bacon until it’s crispy. Remove and set aside. Add onion and 1/4 tsp salt and cook, stirring often, until the onion is fully translucent and soft. Remove and set aside. Pour out any extra grease from the pot, cool, then clean the pot and replace into the IP.
3. In a large bowl combine the eggs, milk and cream, then add pepper and remaining salt. Add half the cheese to the mixture along with the spinach, bacon and onion, and pour it all into the prepared, buttered baking dish. Add remaining cheese on top. Cover with foil – not tight – but enough so steam won’t get into the dish. Install rack in the pot and gently place quiche dish on top of the rack. Add water to the bottom. Use manual pressure for 10 minutes, then let sit for 10 minutes as a natural release, then quick release.
4. Open IP, remove quiche, using the rack handles and set on countertop. Meanwhile, preheat broiler.
5. Add extra cheese to the top of the quiche and place under broiler just long enough to get some nice golden brown color to the top (watch carefully), remove, allow to cool for about 3-5 minutes. Cut in wedges and serve.
Per Serving: 386 Calories; 31g Fat (71.9% calories from fat); 20g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 250mg Cholesterol; 519mg Sodium.

Posted in Breads, Brunch, on January 4th, 2018.

black_pepper_biscuits_closeup

Who would think that just regular rich buttery biscuits could be so much better with the addition of pepper?

A few weeks ago a group of us got together for a breakfast at my friend Cherrie’s house. Some in the group have been meeting for about 35 years, others a shorter time. Usually, in December, one of us hosts the group for breakfast and we share Christmas gifts with one another. Cherrie made a lovely breakfast for us (a potato casserole, sausage and gravy – along with the biscuits I made – fresh fruit, OJ or Prosecco and OJ, and a cranberry coffeecake and coffee, of course). It was all sumptuous.

breakfast_group_Xmas_2017

There we are in Cherrie’s living room about to open our presents. She’s doing an Olde English Christmas this year (see one of the Queen’s adapted mottos at the left – it says “Keep Calm and Feast On” – and the London 2-decker bus back behind the table – it’s mounted on the mirrored wall, but looks like it’s in the frame). She has Scottish charger plates and runners and she’s been collecting Nutcrackers for years, though you can’t see any of them in the picture. Cherrie does a theme every Christmas – last year it was Hawaiian. And just as an aside. Kathy’s grandson, Zach, has just been accepted at the University of Hawaii with a FULL football scholarship. Their family is floating on Cloud 9. Zach was offered scholarships at 9 colleges or universities. Obviously he’s a star player!

Back to the biscuits: since we meet early, I cheated and made the biscuits the night before and stuck them (raw) in the freezer, then popped them in Cherrie’s oven once I got there. The tops of the biscuits had been slathered with buttermilk, then black pepper sprinkled on top. Black pepper biscuits are definitely a southern tradition, but I’d never had them (nor made them) before. The recipe is a fairly traditional rich (butter) biscuit but it has a bunch of fresh ground black pepper in the mixture, and then on top too. Photo below is before I baked them.

black_pepper_biscuits_ready2bakeIF I were to make these again, I wouldn’t freeze them – only because they didn’t brown evenly (see photo), but that was really not a problem with the taste, just the appearance. Or, the option would be to freeze them, but not slather the buttermilk and pepper on top until just before you bake them. The buttermilk had been absorbed by the biscuit dough, although the pepper certainly did stick well enough.

There were raves around the table, mine included. You know, we here in the U.S. and Canada, and likely England as well, use black pepper as our tableside condiment. In many other countries, they use other things like spicy paprika in Hungary and other countries in that region. And in some South American countries they use a spicy dried pepper (not peppercorns). But for us, black pepper became the standard. And I certainly use a lot of it – did you also know that as we age, our taste buds lose their ability to taste as well, so it’s not uncommon for people to use more salt or pepper?

I thought these biscuits were superlative! With the sausage gravy on top – oh my goodness was that ever good. Loved it. And yes, I’ll be making them again.

What’s GOOD: the addition of black pepper does make the biscuit spicy/hot – use less if you’re sensitive to heat. It made a very different tasting biscuit, and it was well liked by everyone at the breakfast. Cherrie kept most of the leftover ones and is going to make sausage gravy again and serve it over those biscuits.

What’s NOT: only if you don’t like black pepper . . . I thought these were scrumptious.

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

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Black Pepper Biscuits

Recipe By: Bobby Flay
Serving Size: 8-12

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder — plus 1 teaspoon
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper — plus more for sprinkling
1 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter — cubed and chilled
2 cups cold buttermilk — plus more for brushing

1. Preheat the oven to 450°F and line a baking sheet with parchment. In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons of pepper and baking soda. Scatter the cubed butter over the dry ingredients and, using your fingers, pinch the butter into the flour to form small sheets of butter, with some of the butter about the size of peas. Stir in the 2 cups of buttermilk just until a dry, shaggy dough forms.
2. Turn the dough out onto a work surface sprinkled lightly with flour and knead gently, folding the dough over itself 2 or 3 times to form a layered dough. Pat the dough out to a 1-inch-thick rectangle. Using a large, sharp knife, cut out as many 3-inch-square biscuits as you can. Gently press the scraps together and cut out more biscuits. [I used a 2 1/2″ square cutter, so this recipe made about 13 biscuits.] Biscuits may be frozen at this point, then sealed into a plastic bag. Use within 2 weeks.
3. Arrange the biscuits on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops with buttermilk and sprinkle with coarsely ground black pepper. Bake for about 15-16 minutes, until golden brown. If baking them from a frozen state, still do the buttermilk brushing and added pepper just before baking, but the biscuits may take 2-3 more minutes to reach that golden brown.
Per Serving: 432 Calories; 21g Fat (44.4% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 51g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 56mg Cholesterol; 879mg Sodium.

Posted in Brunch, Vegetarian, on October 30th, 2017.

microwave_poached_egg

So cinchy easy I can’t believe nobody had figured this out before.

Subscribing to the posts from Food52 is sometimes daunting. They post about 10+ posts a day. Well, maybe I’m exaggerating, but seems like every time I go to look at what they’ve posted, it can take me an hour to get through them all. Yet I don’t want to not look at them because there are some real gems there.

raw_eggs_for_poachingAnyway, since I’ve been having a poached egg or two on toast for dinner now and then (my DH would NOT have thought that was a proper dinner, which is why as a widow, well, I can!). So I had to try this pronto. Since I did two eggs, I  used a bowl instead of a mug (recommended). You add about 1/2 cup of tap water, a tiny splash of distilled vinegar, stir it a bit, add the eggs, cover the mug or dish, pop it into the microwave and cook on high. In MY microwave, it takes 90 seconds, but a single egg in a mug will take maybe 45-60 seconds. You’ll have to judge it yourself. The toast needs to be in the toaster before I put the eggs in the microwave and in a jiffy it’s all ready. So VERY easy. If the eggs aren’t quite done, put it back in the microwave and continue for maybe 5-10 seconds until it’s done to your liking. I like a runny egg, so your timing might be different.

In my microwave, the very tip-top of the egg isn’t submerged. If you want to not see that, remove the bowl/mug after about 45 seconds (once the water is warm) microwave_poached_eggs_bowland use a spoon to drizzle some hot water over the top. I’m fine with the little coin of bright yolk on top. What’s nice is that my lunch or dinner is finished in a matter of 2 minutes, tops.

What’s GOOD: the speedy meal – the fact that I can have a meal done in a matter of 2-3 minutes. These are every bit as good as ones you’ve done in simmering water, I think.

What’s NOT: gee, can’t think of anything. Maybe if you needed to do 6-8 eggs for a family, this wouldn’t work – easier to do a big skillet of them, but for me, this works like a charm!

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

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Microwave Poached Egg

Recipe By: Food52
Serving Size: 1

a bowl or wide cup water, fill about half way, approximately 1/2 cup
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1 large egg — or two

1. Add water to a mug (or bowl if doing two), stir in half a tablespoon of vinegar, crack an egg into the mug, cover with a top (a plate works) and microwave for 45 seconds.
2. Look to see if it’s done. If not, add another 10-20 seconds and check again. Depending on the voltage of the microwave it could take longer, or shorter time. Drain using a slotted spoon and serve.
Per Serving: 74 Calories; 5g Fat (62.1% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; 0g Dietary Fiber; 212mg Cholesterol; 70mg Sodium.

Posted in Breads, Brunch, Desserts, on August 21st, 2017.

almond_puff_slice

Almond Puff Loaf. Oh gosh. Love this.

It had been decades since I’d last made this. I used to make it back in the 1960s – I’d found a recipe in one of my homespun cookbooks. Then one time I made it and it failed completely, and I had no idea why. The 2nd layer kind of spread out all over everywhere (now I know what happened) but after that failure, I thought oh well, I won’t try that again. Then it was featured recently on King Arthur Flour’s blog, and I was reminded about my previous love of it, then distress of it. As I read, I discovered that you must use large eggs, not extra large. I used to buy extra large all the time, but then about 10-15 years ago I read that bakers use ONLY large eggs because they’re more consistent with the normal size used in almost all baked things. And it was mentioned that if you use extra large eggs, this baked goodie might fail. Ah-ha! That must have been it. If you go the blog write-up then go to the recipe itself at King Arthur Flour, you’ll read all the details, if you’re interested. They actually mention how much one large egg weighs. One website says an average large egg weighs (just the egg part) 50 grams.

I served it at one of my book club meetings recently, held here at my house. The recipe is Danish in origin, and I wanted to make Danish goodies because the group was reviewing The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living. We had such an interesting discussion of the book because I invited my friend Janet to come and talk about her experiences in Denmark. Her son lives there with his wife and children, and Janet and Dick visit them regularly. She shared some stories about celebrating Christmas in Denmark (many different traditions), and she also brought a beautiful candle (candles are really, really important in Denmark, and NOT scented) with an unusual glass surround with pine boughs. My meeting was held in my family room – I lit about a dozen candles, had lights on (low) wherever I could (and had it not been mid-summer and hot, I would have lit the fireplace [fireplaces are big deal for hygge]).

almond_puff_fullAnyway, this Danish – well, it’s NOT like a “real” Danish (as we in American might call it), the kind you’d buy at a bakery. This is a pretty easy one to make at home. It has a bottom layer (look at the photo up at the top to see the layers), a top layer that’s like cream puff batter which rises quite a bit in the baking because of the eggs in it, then once baked (it takes an hour) you spread warm jam (I’m quite enamored with Trader Joe’s Peach Bellini jam) on top, then sprinkle on some toasted almonds, then drizzle with a simple powdered sugar icing.  There are a bunch of steps, but none is difficult in the least. A bit of stirring, mixing, melting, spreading, etc. After doing all the layering, I cut it into slices about 1 1/2” wide, 3” long (across). The photo above is of one of the finished loaves – it’s about 10” long and 3-4” wide. The puff was still warm when I put it onto a serving plate and invited my friends to grab a piece, along with coffee (another integral part of Danish life) and makes for a lot of hygge (HOO-GAH). We laughed a lot about how much difficulty we have pronouncing it.

What’s GOOD: this is altogether delicious – it has crunch, almost like croissant flakiness in the middle (but it isn’t, it’s cream-puff flakiness), the jam and almonds adding a nice mouth-feel. There were some pieces left over and I invited my friends to take them home – there was none left after that. Now that I’ve figured out about only using LARGE eggs, I’ll be making this again someday. And then, I love almond anything, so that was an added bonus for me.

What’s NOT: If you don’t like managing all the different layers, maybe this isn’t for you, but it’s not difficult in the least. You do need to start about 1 1/2 hours ahead since it must bake nearly an hour. And it really should cool for 10-15 minutes before serving (I didn’t because I’d run out of time!).

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

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Almond Puff Loaf

Recipe By: King Arthur Flour (but this is an old-old recipe I’ve had for decades)
Serving Size: 16

FIRST LAYER:
1/2 cup butter — cut into pats or 1/2-inch cubes, (8 tablespoons)*
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup water
*If you’re using unsalted butter add 1/4 tsp salt
SECOND LAYER:
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter — (8 tablespoons)*
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
3 large eggs — at room temperature; warm them, in the shell, in hot tap water for 10 minutes if they’re cold from the fridge
1 teaspoon almond extract
*If you’re using unsalted butter add 1/4 tsp salt
TOPPING:
2/3 cup jam — or preserves (preferably apricot or peach)
2/3 cup sliced almonds — toasted in a 350F oven for about 7 to 10 minutes, or until they’re a light, golden brown
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar — or glazing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 teaspoons milk — or water (approximately)

NOTE: Be sure to use only LARGE eggs.
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) a large cookie sheet.
2. First layer: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the butter, flour, and salt (if you’re using it), working the butter into the flour with a pastry blender or fork, your fingers, or a mixer. Mix until everything is crumbly, then stir in the water. The dough will become cohesive, though not smooth.
3. Divide the dough in half; if you’re using a scale, each half will weigh about 4 5/8 – 5 ounces. Wet your hands, and shape each piece of this wet dough into a rough log. Pat the logs into 10″ x 3″ rectangles on the sheet, leaving at least 4″ (but preferably 6″) between them, and 2″ on each side. These puff up in the oven (hence the name), and you need to leave them room for expansion.
4. Second layer: In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the water and butter to a boil. Stir until the butter melts, then add the flour (and salt, if you’re using it) all at once. Stir the mixture with a spoon till it thickens, begins to steam, and leaves the sides of the pan; this will happen very quickly. Transfer the stiff batter to a mixing bowl, or the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat it at medium speed for 30 seconds to 1 minute, just to cool it down a bit.
5. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; beat until the batter loses its slippery look, and each egg is totally absorbed. Mix in the almond extract.
6. Divide the batter in half. Spread half the batter over one of the dough strips on the pan, covering it completely to the outer edges. Repeat with the remaining batter on the 2nd and dough. With a spatula (or your wet fingers) spread the batter until it completely covers the entire bottom layer of dough. Smooth it out as best you can.
7. Bake the pastry for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until it’s a deep golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and transfer each pastry to a wire rack.
8. Topping: Spread each warm pastry with about 1/3 cup of jam or preserves.
9. Sprinkle the toasted almonds atop the jam. By this time, your beautifully puffed pastries are probably starting to sink; don’t worry, this is all part of the plan.
10. Icing: Stir together the sugar, vanilla, and enough milk or water to form a thick but “drizzlable” icing.
Drizzle the icing atop the pastries. Cut into squares or strips to serve.
Per Serving: 257 Calories; 16g Fat (54.4% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 26g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 71mg Cholesterol; 138mg Sodium.
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