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Carolyn

Sara

Sara and me

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Finished Chinn’s story, The English Wife. What a great read. Could hardly put it down. I’m reading 3-4 books a week these days, and am so happy when I have a book I can’t wait to get back to. Really the story is about two sisters. Partly in Norwich, England, then in Newfoundland. One there, one here. And some of it takes place during WWII in Norwich, and much of it Newfoundland, then, and more recent. I loved the part of the book that took place on 9/11 when flights were diverted to Newfoundland. Family secrets, family lies, much anger between the sisters. There’s romance. There’s war. There is love of family. Particularly I savored the descriptions of Newfoundland, mostly rock, if you’ve never been there. It’s a twisted tale, by that I mean the family secrets which become the undoing. It’s a bargain on amazon right now, as I write this.

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. The story is all about Mary, her growing up, her scholarly pursuits, and then from the moment she meets Jesus as a young man. The story follows along to and beyond his death on the cross. In the time of Christ it was extremely uncommon for a man not to marry. It was almost unseemly. Fraught with suspicions, I’d suppose. Although scripture, as scripture does not play a very strong part here, if you’ve read the Bible you’ll see many of the stories of Jesus’ life through Mary’s eyes. 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. Her husband was a journalist, and his life was always in danger because he wrote the truth, and that was taking a risk. The story is about her escape, with harrowing chapters as she makes her way north from Acapulco, with various major detours, one step, or sometimes nothing more than a hair’s width ahead of the cartel minions trying to find her. I could NOT put this book down. The author is not Hispanic, and some have criticized her for that, but she did her research, and many authors write about places and people they are not. I have nothing but respect for her having told this story. You need to read this.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice, living in an English home which lacks much, leaps to agree to marry a visiting American. It was an escape for her. He is a man of some family wealth, and she travels from England to Kentucky, during the 1920s. Once settled into the family home, she discovers married life is not what she had expected. Affection is lacking, and she must share the home with her tyrannical father-in-law, the owner of mines in the deep mountains. And with the ghost of the deceased mother-in-law. The family cook won’t tolerate Alice’s help in the kitchen. Alice is terribly lonely and unhappy. The town doesn’t much like this English woman with her funny way of speaking. But then, she meets a woman who encourages her to join the Horseback Librarians. With trepidation, she begins traversing the remote hills, through unbelievable weather, to deliver old, battered and tattered books to the remote inhabitants of the area. She makes friends, wonderful, loving people from all walks of life. There is tremendous tension from the danger of the mines, the unions trying to get a foothold, plus the unraveling of her marriage, including the dreaded father-in-law who feels she should answer to him, behave as he wants. Uh, no. Alice goes her own route. Her new friends become her family, and, oh, what love. There has been much criticism of Moyes’ possible plagiarism of another book regarding the Horseback Librarians. I read the other book – but I didn’t feel remotely as intrigued by that story as I was by Moyes’ version. A feel good story, but it takes some while getting to that “feel good” part, nearly to the end.

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. It’s about Ellen. Her early years, under much hardship. About her teens, some of it as an orphan. Then a young adult, which includes marriage, a marriage blanc, which I didn’t understand until you learn the meaning. Then a child enters the picture, a child that will become a focus for the remainder of the book. Through the war, and beyond. I cried several times, as will you, I suspect. What’s a constant is the descriptions of the place, a town called Upton, near Southampton. About the hills and dales, the flora and fauna, the rain, the mud sometimes, the flooding sometimes. But throughout, it’s about neighbors caring for neighbors, and about love. A must read. Would make a really good book club read.

Jamie Ford has written another good one, Love and Other Consolation Prizes. Remember, he wrote The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Loved that book. This one takes on a rather ugly part of America’s past, when Chinese people were treated like trinkets. Ernest Young is such a boy, who ends up being a “prize” at an event, and with great angst, ends up as a kind of servant at a high-class bordello in Seattle. Yet, the women and girls there become HIS family. He is intelligent and learns many lessons. Eventually, when society women battle to close down such houses of ill repute, he leaves that life, with his wife. They have children. The bulk of the book is about the early years around the turn of the 20th century, then you pick up the threads nearing the end of his life, and his wife’s. There are any number of small mysteries, which unravel with a word here or there – you know that word foreshadowing? Really interesting read.

In between more literary novels, I bought a comedic memoir . . . Juliette Sobanet’s Meet Me in Paris. There’s the falling apart of a marriage (and divorce), but in the inbetween, she decides to take a trip (sans husband) around Europe to get her head straight. The kind of tour that would drive me crazy, but it was one night, maybe two at each major city. She knew no one, but soon enough bonds with  three other women. Then she has a chance-meeting of a young Frenchman who had been an exchange student in her home town. They’d lost touch, yet there were definitely sparks there, never realized. Some of the touristy stuff was trite, I must say, although the women do try to take in all the major sites, if only for a few minutes. There is plenty of humor. Some steamy stuff too as she meets up with the young man in another city. Apparently it’s a happy-ever-after story. Great literature it is not, but it was a fun romp, so to speak.

Recently finished Thomas Nelson’s The Hideaway. It seems like there are SO many novels out there about families finding, inheriting or otherwise going to an old house with memories. Especially ones on the water. With stories to tell. It’s a great way to introduce some light mystery to the telling of some other family story. In this case it’s Sara’s grandmother who was enigmatic in every way. And Sara inherits the run-down, ramshackle B&B on Mobile Bay. Cute story with lots of twists and turns.

Also just finished James Conroyd Martin’s Fortune’s Child: A Novel of Empress Theodora (Book 1 of 2). Theodora grew up the daughter of a circus performer, but then moved onto “the boards,” as acting was called back in Byzantine times (Constantinople, 6th century). She always had high expectations – she just “knew” she was going to accomplish great things. She was an occasional prostitute, a mistress, and then, behold, the son of Emperor Justin is mesmerized by her beauty, takes her on, and makes her his wife, amid much royal machinations. A young eunuch also plays large in the story too, a man hopelessly in love with Thea, but knows his love can never be returned or fulfilled. He becomes an historian to the Empress. Quite a story – much of it chronicles her early life and not a lot of it in Constantinople. But riveting story.

I’m doing SO much reading of late. Read this book in one day. The Glass Hotel: A novel by Emily St. John Mandel. Loosely based on the story of Bernie Madoff (Ponzi scheme), it tells a novelized version of a man with incredible power and charisma who gathers a group of willing partners. It’s about the people he cuckolded, and the people who took him down. At the beginning drugs come into play and I almost didn’t continue, but that was a very short section. Well worth reading. Lots to discuss if you’re looking for a book club read.

Once in awhile I read a poignant animal story, as you know if you’ve followed this sidebar for any length of time. Craig & Fred: A Marine, A Stray Dog, and How They Rescued Each Other by Craig Gross, tells the story of his military duty in Afghanistan, in a war zone. And how his unit befriended a dog, a stray, and how that dog really did become his lifeline. Soldiers aren’t supposed to have any attachment to the stray dogs, let alone bring them onto the home base where he spent part of his time. His unit all fell in love with Fred, but Craig was obviously the dog’s first love. A very inspiring story; a few tears were shed here and there as I read it. Fred now lives here in the U.S. against all odds.

Also read Cara Wall’s new book, The Dearly Beloved: A Novel. It tells the story of two couples. The two husbands become co-pastors of a New York City church. The wives? Oh my, are they ever different. They don’t abide. The husbands try to get a grip on their jobs, pastoring, preaching, and keeping the wives happy. There is joy, grief, a tiny bit of religion, and likely this book wouldn’t make you think much of pastors. They’re flawed as we all are. Quite a read, for one of my book clubs. I had hoped the book would paint a brighter picture of the profession (I have a wonderful pastor at my own church).

Loved-loved Gregory Buford’s memoir, Kept: An American Househusband in India. He aims to be a U.S. diplomat, takes the tests and fails. On a whim, his wife takes the test and is hired. Their first assignment: Chennai, India. They spent two years there, with his much-loved wife going off to do diplomatic duties (albeit at a low level – everyone must pay their dues at the beginning) and Greg is left at home to deal with the servants, the house, the beggars, the nanny, the construction next door, shopping, and also partly caring for their infant. He is a consummate humorist and can find chuckles in almost every task. I ate this book up in one go. LOL funny and interesting on all fronts.

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, centered around a tragic event in their small town in Minnesota. About how he reviews his memories as he grows old, looking at the people, the event, and his part in it.

Shirley Ann Grau’s book, The Keepers of the House. Hmmm. Much to think about. [from an amazon review]: There is a reason it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1965. Seven generations of Howlands have lived on this rural Alabama plantation in good times and bad. It tells the story of this family from the time its patriarch settled the land in the early 1800s to the mid-20th century. Abigail Howland, who came to the house as a little girl, lives with her crusty but loveable grandfather. Her grandfather’s forbidden love life is an open secret, but long after his death it is Abigail who must pay the price for a love match Southern society could not abide. Lots of sub-stories. Very interesting read.

Marie Martin wrote Harbored Secrets. From amazon: In May of 1935, Blinny Platt’s homestead shack burns to the ground forever leaving her family asunder, scattering them like the embers flew on the Montana wind. She was only 8, sent away and in charge of her little sister. She could handle that because Platts take care of Platts. However, it is the hidden secrets of her parents smoldering beneath the charred remains that haunts Blinny until 1982. She once again leaves the home place to build a house for herself. As the foundation is poured and the walls go up, each of the hurtful memories are uncovered. Finally the mystery, left in the ashes of the burned home, is revealed. How could her mother do what she did? Very interesting read.

Best book I’ve read recently. Not new. Called 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. I stayed up all hours to keep reading. The book was written from the many journals and writing compiled by her children. Her name: Mary Ingles. And it chronicles her 1000-mile trek in treacherous weather and over uncharted ground. What an amazing woman, and what a story.

Alan Hlad has written quite a novel. From true life. The Long Flight Home. It tells the story based on family history, of the homing pigeons that were used in Britain during WWII that flew back and forth across the English Channel into German-occupied France. It’s a heartwarming story. Heart-wrenching sometimes. War is an awful thing no matter which side you’re on when it comes to how it affects everyday people. You’ll learn a lot about pigeons, but also about love. Great read.

Riveted to Katie Munnick’s novel The Heart Beats in Secret. It begins in Scotland in 1940. A woman, a single mother. A journey across the sea. Then her daughter’s story, and finally the granddaughter’s story, when she inherits her grandmother’s old cottage back in Scotland. Plenty of mother-daughter dysfunction. But it comes right in the end.

Sarah Vallance has written a book about her devastating brain injury. Prognosis: A Memoir of My Brain. What a story. What a saga of her recovery. And how she did it. An open wide sharing of her angst, her anger, her journey. Well worth reading. If you have anyone who has suffered a brain injury, it would be wise reading.

Just love all of Amy Harmon’s books. This one is no exception. Where the Lost Wander: A Novel. A pioneer story of a young woman made a widow on the trail to the west. 1850s. As it was in life, tragedies occur. But there is caring and love too. Loved it.

Read Her Mother’s Hope by Francine Rivers. After leaving her childhood home of Switzerland, young Marta Schneider dreams of one day owning a boardinghouse, until marriage and motherhood change her ambitions. Determined to give her family a better life, she vows to raise strong children. But her tough love is often misunderstood, especially by her oldest daughter, Hildemara Rose, creating repercussions that will echo for generations.

Esther Freud’s book The Sea House: A Novel is about a small village on England’s southern coast.  The book is about love found, love lost, love sometimes found again, sometimes not. About how fleeting it can be or seem.

Amor Towles’ book, Rules of Civility: A Novel was quite a read. It’s NYC, 1937. Twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent [Kon-TENT she iterates to many] is in a Greenwich Village jazz bar when a handsome banker, happens to sit down at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a year-long journey into the upper echelons of New York society.

Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacey O’Brien. What an adorable book. True story about Stacey’s 20 years with a feisty but lovable barn owl.

Loved The Wedding Officer: A Novel by Anthony Capella. It takes place in the middle of WWII in Naples. A young British officer, Captain James Gould, is sent to Naples to wade through the zilions of applications from soldiers to marry local Italian women (and presumably take them back to England when the war ends).

Reading behind Bars: A True Story of Literature, Law, and Life as a Prison Librarian by Jill Grunenwald. So interesting. Jill is  young, with a newly minted degree in library science at a time when the economy was very slow. She accepts a position in a minimum security prison in Ohio.

The Walls of Lucca by Steve Physioc. A novel that takes place in between WWI and II about a weary Italian soldier.

The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna. A novel about Croatia in the aftermath of their more recent wars.

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.

Having read all of Kristin Hannah’s books, I knew I’d read her latest too: Between Sisters: A Novel.  Two sisters, raised by the same mother but different fathers. At a young age a rift occurs and the sisters go their own way.

Just finished Matt McCarthy’s book The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly: A Physician’s First Year. It tells the true life story of his first year as an intern at a New York hospital.

Also read Karen Harper’s book The Royal Nanny: A Novel. The time frame is 1890s onward, at Sandringham, when Charlotte Bill (a real person) was hired by the Duke and Duchess of York, to care for their children.

Also read Roger Swindell’s Mendelevski’s Box. It’s an historical novel about the aftermath of WWII in impoverished Amsterdam.

Also read a very quirky non-fiction book: The Perfect Gentleman: The remarkable life of Dr. James Miranda Barry by June Rose. This is a biography about a person who lived in the mid-1800s. He was a surgeon; graduated from Edinburgh Medical School at the age of 14. Joined the British Army as a medical officer then sent off to South Africa and many other tropical outposts during his career.

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley. The premise of this book is different . . . a woman writer goes to Scotland to connect with her distant heritage.

Another great read, The Island of Sea Women: A Novel by Lisa See. It’s about Jeju Island off the coast of Korea where the island as a whole is matriarchal because the women were trained from a young age to deep dive, free dive, for mollusks. These women were the breadwinners. Husbands stayed home and cared for the babies. The island is real. The history is real.

Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford. A novel about the early days of radio in London.

A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts by Therese Anne Fowler. This book is a novel, but based on the life of Alva Smith Vanderbilt (Belmont). Her family was nearly destitute (and faking it) when a marriage was proposed for her with William Vanderbilt.  You see the inner life of Alva – her day to day busy work, charity work, visiting for afternoon tea, the undercurrent of society’s morals.

Also read In Falling Snow: A Novel, by Mary-Rose McColl. From amazon: Iris, a young Australian nurse, travels to France during World War I to bring home her fifteen-year-old brother, who ran away to enlist. 

Also couldn’t put down The Secret Wife by Gill Paul. A long story that begins in war-torn Russia. Cavalry officer Dmitri falls head over heels in love with one of the daughters of Tzar Nicholas.

Uncommon Woman. A book about Colonial America, but really the western frontier at that time, which is in western Pennsylvania.

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. This book is the story of her life. The people she met, the men in her life, her children, and always about her indefatigable energy for life. Always hoping to return to Jamaica.

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, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being regarding going to school and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. And then what happens to him as he grows up. Riveting.

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

House by the Fjord by Rosalind Laker. What a darling story. From amazon: A touching and atmospheric love story – When Anna Harvik travels to Norway in 1946 in order to visit the family of her late husband, the country is only just recovering from five cruel years of Nazi occupation.

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

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

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

A fabulous read – Catherine Ryan Hyde’s newest book, Have You Seen Luis Velez? Raymond, a youngster, an older teenager, who  lacks self-confidence and feels like an odd duck sometimes, reluctantly (at first) befriends an elderly woman in the apartment building where he lives with his mother and step-father. Sweet story.

Magic Hour: A Novel

Excellent Women

Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist) by Min Jin Lee. Everyone should read this one.

An American Marriage (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Tayari Jones. DIdn’t like it much, but others do.

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

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

You’ve got to read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book – Take Me With You. What a story.

 

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 Cookies, Desserts, on August 26th, 2020.

whoopie_pies

A post from Sara . . .

Do you remember that childhood treat, the Whoopie Pie?  That hand-held delectably moist chocolate cake with marshmallow buttercream inside?  I recently made this recipe again. I can’t remember when I made it last but whoa, was it good! My kids and their friends who are now in their 20’s ate them within 2 days and I made a double batch! I’ve already been asked to make more. They are an excellent make ahead individual dessert that travels well and freezes easily.

My suggestions while making the cakes:

  • Use a scoop so that the cakes are close in size and shape.  That way they can be matched up easily to make the sandwich-style “pie.”
  • Keep the cake batter chilled, as it tends to spread out if it gets too warm.
  • When assembling the pies I paired the cakes on a cooling rack. Then flip every other row onto its top to expose the flat bottom of the cake for frosting.
  • Use a smaller scoop to add frosting.  It spreads out on its own, no need to use a knife.  I topped each upside down frosted cake with another so that both cake tops were showing.
  • If it’s warm, the top cake will slide.  So once assembled,  immediately refrigerate to solidify the frosting.

Due to COVID, I chose to wrap each pie individually in plastic wrap so the kids could just grab and enjoy.  

The recipe makes 8 pies but they are quite large.  I think using a smaller scoop and making twice as many would be better next time. There is a Wilton 12-Cavity Whoopie Pie Baking Pan available on amazon, but those are the larger (standard) size. If  you decide to make them smaller, just use a cookie sheet. These dessert cookies are very rich and full of flavor so I believe the smaller size is a better choice.

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

* Exported from MasterCook ** Exported from MasterCook *

Whoopie Pies

Serving Size: 8 (or 16, if you make them half-size)

CAKES:
2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup unsalted butter — softened
1 cup brown sugar — packed
1 large egg
FILLING:
1/2 cup softened butter
1 1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 cups marshmallow cream topping
1 teaspoon vanilla

Notes: Sara’s advice – make smaller cookies, about half as large as indicated, which would give a double yield. These are very rich.
1. Mix flour, cocoa, soda and salt in a bowl.
2. Stir together he buttermilk and vanilla.
3. Beat together sugar and butter in large bowl until mixture is very pale and fluffy.
4. Add egg. Reduce speed, then add buttermilk mixture with flour mixture, alternately, starting and ending with flour.
5. Spoon 1/4 cup batter on greased baking sheet, 2″ apart. Bake in 350°F oven for 12 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely.
6. FILLING: Mix all ingredients together in electric mixer. Spread 1 large tablespoon of filling onto flat side of cake. Top with a second cake, flat side down. Chill immediately.
Per Serving (for 8 cookies): 695 Calories; 26g Fat (32.7% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 113g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 87mg Cholesterol; 674mg Sodium; 65g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 75mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 300mg Potassium; 137mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, on August 20th, 2020.

iron_skillet_peach_crisp

Oh, lovely peaches. They are SO good this year.

When I asked my neighbor to buy peaches for me, I asked for eight of them. And I had some kind of peach whiskey drink in mind I’d read about that used a reduction of peaches. But then, I couldn’t find the recipe. So, as two days went by and the peaches ripened to perfection, I had to decide what to do with them. I’m trying NOT to make desserts – because I’m the only one eating them – but alas, what to do except make peach crisp. What a treat this was. There’s not a lot of topping on this, and I used monkfruit sweetener – and truly I cannot taste the difference. The original recipe came from a 2015 issue of Bon Appetit. I adapted it a little bit –  less sugar, then the substitution of monkfruit in the topping and the peaches. I added a bit more garam masala (what an unusual addition).

What is garam masala:

it’s a frequent ingredient in Indian cooking, but it’s a combo of spices and maybe a few herbs (coriander, cumin, bay, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, maybe star anise and sometimes fennel). So, it works fine here in a fruit dessert.

peach_pecan_layer

There at left you can see the skillet with just the peach mixture and the pecans sprinkled on top.

The peaches were dripping juice off my hands as I peeled them, then sliced them into a bowl, adding just a tetch of monkfruit sweetener, lemon juice, garam masala and salt. Into the buttered iron skillet it went. The topping is very easy to make, and I used less monkfruit than the recipe called for too. The little chilled butter cubes are easily mushed into the dry mixture – using your fingers. Pecans are an essential ingredient – they are so perfect with peaches (they’re one of those magic combinations made in heaven) which tells me God had a plan when he made Georgia (and the South) peach country, and also pecan iron_skillet_peach_crisp_unbakedcountry. So the topping is sprinkled over the top and it’s baked for 25-40 minutes. It kind of depends on how thick the peaches are in the skillet. If you have fewer peaches, do use a smaller iron skillet. You want the peaches to be about 1 1/2 inches thick in the pan. Maybe even more as they shrink as they bake.

There, at right, is the crisp, just out of the oven. The topping doesn’t get all that brown, just a bit golden.

Because this was a treat for me, I ate just that for dinner. Nothing else. And oh yes, it was just wonderful. I let the skillet sit out on my counter overnight and then put what was left of the crisp (a lot) into a storage container. The topping won’t be crisp anymore, but the flavor will still be just as good. And probably the pecans will be soggy. So, ideally, make just enough of this that you’ll eat at one sitting.

What’s GOOD: I liked everything about this. The peaches, of course, which were at the peak of perfection; the toasted pecans were also SO good. I couldn’t discern the garam masala, but am sure they contributed to the flavor even though I couldn’t actually taste it. I’d definitely make this again.

What’s NOT: nothing really – it helps to have really ripe peaches. Ideally, eat all of it at the first serving of it as the topping won’t stay crisp and the pecans will get soggy. Eat up!

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Iron-Skillet Peach Pecan Crisp

Recipe By: Adapted from Bon Appetit 2015
Serving Size: 8

TOPPING:
1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup light brown sugar — (packed) or artificial sweetener like monkfruit brown
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter — chilled, cut into very small cubes
FILLING:
1 1/2 cups pecans
1 tablespoon unsalted butter — room temperature, to smear inside skillet
2 1/4 pounds peaches — (about 7 medium), cut into 1/2″ wedges
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar — or artificial sweetener like monkfruit
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

NOTES: If peaches are not fully ripe, use more sugar mixed into the peaches. If you reduce the size of this, make the crisp in a smaller iron skillet.
1. Topping: Whisk flour, brown sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Rub in butter with your fingers until clumps form and no dry spots remain.
2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Toast pecans on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until slightly darkened in color, 8-10 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop.
3. Smear bottom and sides of a 10″ cast-iron skillet with butter. Toss peaches, brown sugar, granulated sugar, lemon juice, garam masala, and salt in a large bowl to combine. Transfer to skillet. Sprinkle toasted pecans on top, then add crumble topping, breaking up into large pieces, over filling.
4. Bake crisp until topping is golden brown and juices are thick and bubbling around the edges, 25-40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temp with vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream.
5. Crisp can be made 1 day ahead. Store lightly covered at room temperature.
Per Serving: 405 Calories; 27g Fat (56.7% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 41g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 34mg Cholesterol; 295mg Sodium; 26g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 37mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 361mg Potassium; 99mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, Grilling, on August 2nd, 2020.

grilled_lemon_pound_cake_grilled_peaches

Another recipe from Sara.

Some weeks ago I spent the day with daughter Sara and her family. In her backyard. Social distanced. It was a beautiful sunny Southern California day – the kind that makes you glad you live in California. Sara had made two new dishes – I’ve already posted the Italian Meatball Sub Sandwiches (which were SO good). For dessert she made this lemon pound cake. She’d baked it the evening before, and her family went so NUTS over it, they ate the whole thing. So the next morning she had to bake another one. Her words: this is the best pound cake I’ve ever made. What it is, is VERY lemony. It’s a pound cake – dense like a pound cake is, but so tender. SO tender.

lemon_pound_cake_ready_to_grillThe  cake comprises the usual ingredients – eggs, butter and sugar, but what was different was cake flour. Which always makes baked goods lighter in texture. That’s not to say it’s like a normal cake – no. It’s a pound cake, meaning more dense. And it is all lemon – there’s 1/4 CUP of lemon zest in this pound cake. I wonder if there’s ever too much lemon zest in things?

Do use ripe, but not overly ripe peaches. And get everything in place when you begin the grilling. Have the serving platter or dishes handy. Grill the pound cake so you get pretty grill marks, remove them, then start on the peaches. If you have a big grill, put the pound cake on the unheated side while you do the peaches. That way the pound cake will stay warm. This could be served with ice cream (vanilla) or whipped cream. grilling_peaches

Years ago I posted a recipe for grilled pound cake with grilled peaches, but the cake didn’t have the lemon in it. That makes this recipe much more interesting to me. Everybody loved it.

What’s GOOD: what bring summer to mind any more than fresh, juicy peaches? The pound cake would be good any time of  year, but the lemon aspect of this is off the charts delicious. And the combination of pound cake and peaches is sublime.

What’s NOT: can’t think of anything. Great for an outdoor barbecue.

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

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Grilled Lemon Pound Cake with Peaches and Cream

Recipe By: Bryan Calvert, James (restaurant), Brooklyn
Serving Size: 10

2 cups cake flour
1/4 cup lemon zest — finely grated, from about 3 lemons
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter — at room temperature
2 cups sugar
6 large eggs — at room temperature
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Vegetable oil — for brushing the grill
4 large peaches — sliced into 1/2-inch wedges
Lightly sweetened whipped cream

1 Preheat the oven to 325°. Spray a 9 1/2-by-5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. In a medium bowl, whisk the cake flour with the lemon zest, baking powder and salt.
2 In a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with the sugar at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the side of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between additions. At low speed, beat in the flour mixture just until incorporated. Beat in the milk, lemon juice and vanilla, scraping down the side of the bowl as necessary.
3 Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour and 30 minutes, until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and let the cake cool for 20 minutes. Unmold the cake and let cool completely, about 3 hours.
4 Light a grill. Using a serrated knife, cut the pound cake into 10 slices. Lightly oil the grate and grill the slices over moderate heat, turning once, until toasted, about 2 minutes. Transfer to plates. Lightly oil the grate again. Grill the peaches over moderately high heat until lightly browned and tender, about 2 minutes. Spoon the peaches over the cake, dollop with whipped cream and serve.
Per Serving: 490 Calories; 22g Fat (39.3% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 69g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 161mg Cholesterol; 201mg Sodium; 46g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 75mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 209mg Potassium; 152mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, Grilling, on July 27th, 2020.

roasted_tomatoes_before_roasting

That’s a photo BEFORE roasting. SO good afterwards. See that photo below.

You’ve heard me mention my best friend Cherrie. She’s an avid cook, and prepares fabulous meals for herself and her husband Bud on a daily basis. Even before the pandemic, they rarely went out to eat. During the pandemic she’s been preparing a monstrous dish of some kind about once a week, dividing it up into four boxes and taking it to four friends – all of them don’t like to cook. One afternoon each week she and Bud go on a driving trip to deliver the meals to these four friends. Who have come to depend on their weekly delivery! She doesn’t stop at my house because she knows that I DO cook.

Some weeks ago she tried this recipe for Roasted Tomatoes from Ina Garten. I think Cherrie served them with some nice, soft fresh mozzarella cheese and made a salad. Then she began incorporating them in several of her casserole dishes she was making for friends. Then they bought a 25 pound box of Roma tomatoes to make even more of them. She was swimming in Roma tomatoes! They would be wonderful chopped up into pasta, if you’re inclined. Anyway, Cherrie was raving to me about these tomatoes. So I decided I’d best try them myself.

My neighbor did buy 12 Roma (plum) tomatoes for me a week ago, and I had some fresh thyme from my veggie delivery box. I had garlic, EVOO and balsamic. That’s all it needs except for some salt and pepper. Ina’s original recipe didn’t call for thyme, so you can eliminate that if you’d prefer. The tomatoes are halved (and I clipped out the little stem part), placed on parchment , cut side up on a sheet pan, then you begin the layering – salt, pepper, EVOO, garlic and then the thyme laid gently on the top. Roast in the oven until the tomatoes have slumped. The recipe said 20-25 minutes, but mine didn’t “slump” until about 50 minutes, probably because they were quite large tomatoes. Once roasted and cooled slight, gently strip the thyme sprigs off onto the tomatoes and discard those twigs.

roasted_tomatoes_ina_gartenMany nights I’ve been eating just vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, onions in some manner, summer squashes and mushrooms. Sometimes in combination, but usually on their own. That night I made green beans, with onions and bacon, and put a couple of these tomatoes on my plate. I didn’t take a picture of that . . . sorry.

What’s GOOD: well, what can I tell you . . . one of those tomatoes popped into your mouth is like eating candy. Truly. I think they’d be best at room temp or warmed. They’d be good with fresh mozzarella. Or chopped up and served alongside a burger or steak. Or chicken. Chopped up with green onions and lime juice, they’d be good on a piece of grilled fish.

What’s NOT: nothing other than you do need to use Roma (plum) tomatoes. I suppose you could try it with other varieties, even cherry tomatoes.

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

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Roasted Tomatoes with Thyme

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Ina Garten
Serving Size: 4

12 plum tomatoes — halved lengthwise, cores and seeds removed
4 tablespoons EVOO
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 large garlic cloves — minced
2 teaspoons sugar — optional
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 sprigs fresh thyme

NOTE: I generally don’t add sugar – ripe tomatoes have plenty of sweetness.
1. Preheat the oven to 450° F. Place a piece of parchment paper in a large roasting pan and bend up the edges if possible so the juices don’t ooze out onto your pan (the juices will burn something fierce on the super-hot metal). You may also use foil, but parchment works better.
2. Arrange the tomatoes on the lined sheet pan, cut sides up, in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle the garlic, sugar (if using), salt, and pepper over the tomatoes. Spread the thyme sprigs across the tops of the tomatoes.
3. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, until the tomatoes are concentrated and beginning to slump down and caramelize (which may take up to 45-55 minutes). Remove from oven, cool, then carefully, over the tomatoes, strip the thyme sprigs of their leaves, and discard the stems.
4. Serve warm or at room temperature. Can be used in a salad with mozzarella cheese, or ricotta, chopped up on top of a block of cream cheese with crackers, or eaten straight, warm or at room temp, for a delicious sugar bomb in your mouth!
Per Serving: 170 Calories; 14g Fat (70.5% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 879mg Sodium; 8g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 29mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 464mg Potassium; 50mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, on July 15th, 2020.

dark_choc_mousse_tofu

So, do I know my readers? Tofu? Can I hear ewwws out there? Don’t be a naysayer until you’ve tried it.

Right off the get-go, I’ll just share that I’m not a fan of tofu. Back in the day I’d leave the tofu squares at the bottom of the soup bowl at a Chinese restaurant. Still would if I’m eating at a Chinese restaurant (I’m not). Didn’t and don’t like the texture. Tofu, in and of itself, has very little flavor. You know that, right? But that doesn’t make me want to eat it in cubes in much of anything. There is a tofu dip here on my blog that’s actually very good.

This recipe I got at a cooking class many, many months ago. Way back when I was still attending such things. I’m certainly not at the moment. And may not be for a very long time. Sigh. But anyway, Susan had found this recipe on the ‘net, at the Food Network. I’m not sure which type of tofu she used at the class, but it was so runny it hardly seemed like pudding once she whizzed up this dessert. It was more like a sauce. But I liked it. Just didn’t like the thin type texture. So over the last many months I’ve tried it twice. The original recipe called for silken. But I tried it first with firm tofu. It was way too firm, even though I thinned it out with some milk. I asked my neighbor, who is still doing some of my shopping for me (but now I’m able to order online and drive in front of my local market and they put the groceries in my trunk – yeah!), if she’d buy me some silken tofu. Well, Trader Joe’s was the grocery of choice for her, that day, so I got what they had. And funnily enough, the box didn’t say which style tofu it was. It wasn’t as firm as “firm,” but it was still fairly so. Definitely not silken. Perhaps Susan used silken and it was too soft.

The recipe calls for cocoa powder, Dutch processed. I used an extra dark cocoa that I buy from either Penzey’s or King Arthur and it’s not Dutched. It’s richer and darker than usual, but you can easily use grocery-store bought cocoa like Hershey’s. Their extra-dark is actually very good. In this recipe, I can’t imagine the Dutch type is important, so I don’t know why it specifically calls for it.

What I will tell you is that this dessert – that really is more like a pudding than a mousse – is so incredibly easy and quick, you won’t quite believe it when I tell you you can whip it up in 10 minutes or less. It does like to be chilled for awhile, however. When I made this batch (pictured above) it made 6 little cups of pudding. You might eke out 7 if you tried. Even though it’s tofu, it’s rich, creamy, and very satisfying. I used one of my brands of artificial sugar (Lankanto monkfruit, my current fav) and couldn’t tell the difference from using regular sugar.

The chocolate, cocoa, a little bit of water and brandy are heated until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Then you add in the sugar (which cools it down), then you add it to the tofu in a blender or food processor (I used the latter). If you whiz it up for a bit, it makes the texture very pudding-like smooth. See if you like the texture (not smoothness but the thickness). If it’s too stiff, add a tablespoon or two of milk to thin it slightly. Spoon or pour the pudding into little cups and chill for at least an hour. I left them open (meaning, uncovered) in my frig for days and the top never developed a skin.

Susan whipped up real cream. I used the canned type since I had some, and forgot to add the chocolate shavings to garnish it.

What’s GOOD: so easy. So rich, chocolaty and creamy. Loved the texture, even though I know I’m eating tofu, it doesn’t seem like it. Would make a great company dessert. I promise you, no one is going to know it’s tofu. You don’t have to tell them. This is also a GF dessert – no thickening used.

What’s NOT: only that you’ll have to plan ahead and have some tofu on hand. Don’t use silken or firm. Something in-between.

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

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Dark Chocolate Pudding Mousse with Tofu

Recipe By: From a cooking class with Susan V, Feb. 2020
Serving Size: 6

19 ounces tofu — drained (don’t use firm or silken)
4 ounces dark chocolate — bittersweet preferably, high quality, finely chopped
1/3 cup cocoa — preferably Dutch-processed
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons brandy
1/2 cup sugar — plus 1 tablespoon
TOPPING (makes a very small amount):
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons chocolate — shaved on top

1. In a blender or food processor, puree the tofu until it is smooth.
2. Put the chopped chocolate, cocoa powder, water and brandy in a saucepan or heat-proof bowl fitted over a pot containing 1-inch barely simmering water. Stir frequently, until melted and smooth. Remove from heat.
3. Mix in 1/2 cup of sugar, a little at a time, until smooth. Add the chocolate mixture to the tofu and puree until smooth and well blended, scraping down the sides once or twice. Taste for thickness – if too thick, add a little bit of milk (1-2 tablespoons) and re-whiz until it’s to your liking. Spoon the mousse into serving dishes, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.
4. TOPPING: Whip the cream with a beater. When the cream is almost completely whipped, add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and finish whipping. Top each serving with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of chocolate shavings and serve.
Per Serving: 294 Calories; 15g Fat (44.4% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 32g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 14mg Cholesterol; 20mg Sodium; 28g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 348mg Calcium; 7mg Iron; 258mg Potassium; 150mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, on June 6th, 2020.

straw_sauce_ricotta_cream

That’s a glass espresso cup. Tiny. And an espresso spoon. To make a tiny dessert.

As businesses have opened up here in California (mostly) I’m still sheltering in place. Wishing all of this was over with, so we can go about our lives again. Alas, for people my age, at least here in California, it’s not happening yet. I’m still at home, preparing all of my own food (I haven’t done any take-out so far). There’s no shortage of recipes to try, but sometimes there aren’t the right ingredients to make things happen. My next door neighbor is still buying lots of food for me, although I’m now buying from some local grocery stores that deliver.

The other day a little memory rose up to the surface, as they are wont to do sometimes, and I remembered waaaay back in the day when I was still working. Kathleen, who worked for us, was going to Weight Watchers at the time, and came into the office and said oh, taste this . . . it was something creamy, thick, white. Eileen tasted it and said eww….. I tasted it and said wow, that’s delicious. What is it? She said pastry cream. What? Really, on Weight Watchers? She said yes. I wanted the recipe. She laughed a little, I think, and said you won’t believe what it is? Ricotta cheese, a smidgen of yogurt with some sweetener in it (probably Sweet ‘n Low, which was about all that was available back then). And maybe there was a tiny splash of vanilla in it. Not sure that I remember if Kathleen used it, but I do add vanilla when I make it.

My business partner and I sold the ad agency back in 1995, but I’ve stayed in touch with some of the employees, Kathleen included. I emailed her the other day and asked her if she remembered that day. Of course she did! And she recalled that the following week after that epiphany in the office, she went to her Weight Watchers meeting, and raved about the “pastry cream” she’d been snacking on a few times a day, the leader said WHAT? You’re only supposed to have a bite or two, like on a strawberry, or spread on an apple slice. OH. We all laughed about that.

ricotta_cheese_TJsBut I’ve not forgotten that little sinful pleasure, and had my neighbor buy me a tub of ricotta from Trader Joe’s. I buy full fat because I’m not pleased with what I’ve read about how dairy products are stripped of the fat – maybe not a healthy food to eat. So anyway, I opened the tub, sprinkled on some monkfruit sweetener, added a small dollop of yogurt, and a couple of drops of vanilla, and stirred it up well. I prefer to do this several hours ahead, but hey, if you’re in a hurry, go right ahead. The sweetener or sugar just doesn’t dissolve immediately in ricotta cheese. Over the years, I’m sure I’ve made this “ricotta cream” at least 20 times. (Thank you, Kathleen!) The original recipe suggests you whiz this up in the food processor until the ricotta is silky smooth. I don’t bother – the stirred version is fine with me.

Meanwhile, my neighbor phoned me one day and said the local grocery store had big boxes of fresh strawberries for $1.99. Did I want one? Wow, that’s a lot of strawberries for me to eat, but I said “sure.” I ate a few, then thought about making a fresh strawberry sauce, using artificial sweetener. I’m really trying to limit the sugar I eat. This may be the last “dessert” you’ll see here for awhile as I’m telling myself I can’t be baking with abandon as I stay here at home. I want to bake. No. Need to stop!

straw_sauceSo I made a fresh strawberry sauce with fresh, sliced strawberries, some monkfruit sweetener, and a little bit of fresh lemon juice. It took little or no time to make. I read a bunch of different recipes, and one intrigued me stating that sliced berries will result in a vibrant, clear sauce. If you mash them, it muddies the waters, so to speak. I liked the result, and it’s low in calorie to boot. I also added a tiny, tiny splash of dark balsamic vinegar to the mixture once it cooled. It gives a different flavor profile – you can’t quite figure out what’s in it. Those little storage containers above are now in the freezer. The pound of berries made a lot of sauce, which won’t keep all that long because it’s not sweetened with sugar. It tastes like a thin jam, but without real sugar it will begin to spoil after 4-5 days.

straw_sauce_ice_creamUSING: Well, when I’m desperate for a snack, my spoon goes into that tub of ricotta cheese. I eat maybe 2 bites straight, just like Kathleen taught me back in the 90s [cheeky grin]. If I’m wanting something more fancy, I do have some vanilla ice cream on hand that I’m trying very hard not to eat but rarely, and the other night I scooped some into a little bitty glass dish and spooned some berries on top, with a few walnuts. A tasty dessert. Or I spoon some of the ricotta cream into a little espresso cup and add the berries on top (pictured at top).

What’s GOOD: a great little snack (moderation, remember?) and makes a nice little bitty dessert if you’re hankering for something not too sinful. Strawberries are at peak season here in California at the moment. A perfect time to make this. And freeze some of it for a winter’s day.

What’s NOT: only if you don’t like the texture/consistency of ricotta cheese. It is an odd, kind of grainy texture, perhaps an acquired taste for some, but I’m fine with it. Obviously Eileen wasn’t! Chuckle.

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

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

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Fresh Ricotta Cream

Recipe By: From my friend Kathleen H, from a Weight Watcher’s class, c. 1990
Serving Size: 8

1 pound ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
3 tablespoons sugar — or artificial sweetener
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Blend ingredients in food processor with metal blade until satiny smooth. Refrigerate in tightly covered container. Will keep for at least a week.
2. If you’re lazy, you can just stir into the ricotta the yogurt, sugar and vanilla and mix well. The sugar takes awhile to dissolve, so it’s best if made a few hours ahead.
SERVING: Serve as a kind of small-portion pudding, top with some sliced fruit, a fruit sauce, or even chocolate syrup. Put between two cookies, or use between thin layers of cake.
Per Serving: 108 Calories; 6g Fat (49.7% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; 0g Dietary Fiber; 29mg Cholesterol; 65mg Sodium; 5g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 124mg Calcium; trace Iron; 134mg Potassium; 93mg Phosphorus.

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* Exported from MasterCook *

Fresh Strawberry Sauce

Recipe By: My own recipe.
Serving Size: 12

1 pound fresh strawberries — cleaned, dried with paper towels, stemmed, then sliced thickly
2 tablespoons sugar — or monkfruit sweetener, or other artificial sweetener
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar — or more to taste

1. Place sliced strawberries into a saucepan. Add sugar and lemon juice. The amount of sugar needed will depend on how ripe the berries are – riper the berries = less sugar.
2. Bring mixture to a simmer and stir occasionally as it cooks and the strawberries soften, about 4-8 minutes. Do not overcook or the berries will soften to a mush. That’s not the texture you want – just cooked through, barely. Taste for more sugar or lemon juice, as needed.
3. Set aside to cool.
4. Add balsamic vinegar and stir well. You do not want the balsamic vinegar flavor to predominate – it’s there just to add a nuance. Allow to cool completely and chill. Freezes well.
Per Serving: 21 Calories; trace Fat (4.6% calories from fat); trace Protein; 5g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 1mg Sodium; 4g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 6mg Calcium; trace Iron; 61mg Potassium; 9mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, on May 22nd, 2020.

rhubarb_cobbler_ice_cream

Every time I make something with rhubarb, my mind wings back in time to my mother’s varied ways of preparing it.

No question about it, I love rhubarb. I love the sweet-sour taste of it – even with plenty of sugar in it – it still has that little bit of sour that reaches those particular taste buds on your tongue. This was a new recipe I tried, and I liked it a LOT. My mother most often just made a rhubarb sauce – probably nothing more than rhubarb, sugar and water. That would be dessert. Mom would put out the bowl of sauce, 3 little serving bowls and we’d help ourselves. As I think I’ve mentioned before, my mother had a patch of rhubarb in the back  yard, clearly tucked away under a tree with lots of shade. I’ve heard tell that some people serve stalks of rhubarb with a bowl of sugar and you just dip the end into the sugar and eat it raw. I’ve never tried it.

rhubarb_cobbler_unbakedThe chunked up rhubarb was mixed with sugar (I used half real sugar and half monkfruit sweetener), salt, lemon juice and some almond extract (loved that part). It went into a buttered baking dish. Then you mix up the topping – flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, some shortening (yes, really), some butter, milk and an egg. It came together very easily. I did use a pastry blender, although at the end I just used my hands and mashed the little pieces of butter between my fingers. Then you pinch off little pieces of that dough and put them on top of the rhubarb. What happens is that it makes  “cobbled” top. It gives the topping, when baked, a craggy type top with little nooks and crannies.rhubarb_cobbler_baked

Into the oven it went for about 30 minutes and it was perfectly golden brown on top. I let it cool – but I think the best way to eat this would be still warm, with the ice cream.

Truth be told, the next morning I had this for my breakfast with some milk poured over it. Absolutely divine.

What’s GOOD: altogether wonderful. The rhubarb. Yum. Topping. Yum. After having 2-3 portions, I gave the rest of it to my daughter Sara, who came to visit the day before Mother’s Day – we visited outside. I made lunch.

What’s NOT: nothing. nothing.

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

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Rhubarb Cobbler

Recipe By: Adapted from a recipe at Tasty Kitchen (Ree Drummonds recipe sharing part of her website, Pioneer Woman)
Serving Size: 12

RHUBARB:
6 cups rhubarb — chopped
1 2/3 cups sugar — you can use half or all artificial sweetener – I use monkfruit
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
TOPPING:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup whole milk
1 whole egg

NOTE: Use a ceramic or glass dish. The rhubarb cooks down a lot so choose a dish that is larger than a 9×9 if you have one.
1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. In a large bowl, combine rhubarb, sugar, salt, lemon juice, and almond extract. Stir it well to distribute the sugar mixture and set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, salt and baking powder. Stir together. Using a pastry cutter or your hands, add shortening and butter, until all the fat is in small little pebbles.
4. Beat egg and milk together. Pour into flour mixture and stir with a fork until just combined. If mixture is too dry, add a teaspoon or two of milk. The dough should hold together but not be sticky.
5. Pour rhubarb into a large, buttered baking dish. Tear off pinches of dough and drop it onto the surface of the fruit, creating a “cobbled” texture. Sprinkle additional sugar over the top.
6. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, half and half or fresh whipped cream. You can also serve this for breakfast with milk poured over it.
Per Serving: 311 Calories; 11g Fat (30.5% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 52g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 12mg Cholesterol; 318mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on April 15th, 2020.

indiv_choc_pavlova_choc_pastry_cream

The prettiest little dessert ever. Chocolate.

At a cooking class awhile back, Phillis Carey made these gems. Would I ever make them? Probably not – I think they’re a bit too fussy for my dessert-making tastes, but Phillis assured us they weren’t that difficult. However, she’d made the meringues that morning, and prepared the chocolate cream filling the night before. She’d put the meringues in a sealed container. So, really, all she had to do at the class was assemble them. That part’s really easy. But, if you don’t mind the making of meringues, or the chocolate cream, then go for it.

The recipe down below looks more than intimidating, I’d wager, for even the more experienced cooks out there. Some folks get turned off by anything more than about 5 ingredients in a recipe. Definitely more complicated than that.

Making meringues can be off-putting to some, but Phillis’ instructions are quite straight forward. You do have to make 4” circles on a big piece of parchment paper, then you turn it over so you don’t absorb graphite into the meringues, but you can still SEE the circles through the other side of the parchment. And, you’ve got to whip the egg whites for at least 8 minutes. Advice: set a timer when you begin, because you’ll think you’re done at about 5 minutes. No, a full 8 minutes.

The chocolate cream is easy enough, although  you do need to prepare an ice-water bath for it. Once made, and it’s hot, of course, you set the bowl into the ice water to cool it down until it’s fully cold. So, do make the meringues the day ahead (store at room temp, sealed up in a plastic, lidded box) and make the filling up to 3 days ahead. Then it’s only a matter of whipping the cream, shaving some chocolate curls and assembling it. That part’s very easy.

What’s GOOD: loved having chocolate pavlova – that was a new taste treat. If you want to make it a bit more decadent, make MORE of the chocolate cream – the chocolate flavor really comes from that and as the recipe is now, it doesn’t give any serving very much of it. I think I’d double it.

What’s NOT: only that you’ll want to plan ahead – make meringues day before – make cream at least a day or 2 ahead of time. A little bit fussy to serve, but not overly so. If everything IS made ahead, it’s not difficult in the least.

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

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Individual Chocolate Pavlovas with Dark Chocolate Cream

Recipe By: From a cooking class with Phillis Carey, 2020
Serving Size: 4

PAVLOVAS:
2 large egg whites — at room temperature
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
6 tablespoons superfine sugar
1 pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup heavy cream — whipped (garnish)
chocolate curls (garnish)
CHOCOLATE CREAM:
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream — + 1 tablespoon
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
4 ounces dark chocolate — finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. PAVLOVAS: To make meringue, preheat oven to 275°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Draw four 4-inch circles on parchment, flip parchment over (so you can see the pencil marks but it won’t be absorbed into the meringue). Mix egg whites, sugars, salt and vinegar in a mixing bowl, set over a bowl of simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugars dissolve and mixture is warm, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk on medium-high speed or hand mixer until stiff peaks form, about 8 minutes. Set a timer if that helps – you do not want to under-beat this meringue. Beat in vanilla.
2. Sift cocoa powder over meringue and fold until barely any streaks remain. Using an offset spatula or a large spoon, spread meringue onto parchment, using the circles as a guide. Be careful not to spread out too much as the meringue will spread some during baking. Form a small well in the center of each meringue, being careful not to spread the meringue too thin in the center.
3. Bake meringues until dry to the touch, about 40-45 minutes. Let cool on sheet pan on wire rack. Meringues will keep in a tightly covered container for up to one day. Remove to a sealed container.
4. CHOCOLATE CREAM: Prepare an ice-water bath.
5. Whisk egg yolks and half of the sugar in a medium bowl. Bring cream, milk, salt and remaining sugar to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Pour a THIRD of the hot cream mixture into the yolk mixture, whisking until combined. Pour yolk mixture into pan with hot cream. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until mixture coats the back of a spoon – this will happen very quickly.
6. Place chopped chocolate in a large heatproof bowl. Pour hot mixture over chocolate. Whisk until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Strain through a sieve into a medium bowl, then set bowl in ice-water bath, stirring often, until chocolate is cool/cold. Stir in vanilla. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on surface of chocolate cream, cover and refrigerate for up to three days.
7. ASSEMBLY: Spread chocolate cream evenly in the center of each meringue, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the outside. Spread whipped cream over chocolate cream. Garnish with chocolate curls and serve immediately.
Per Serving: 465 Calories; 28g Fat (52.1% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 52g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 170mg Cholesterol; 330mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on March 20th, 2020.

sour_cherry_choc_torte_slice

Comfort food needed.

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

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

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

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

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

sour_cherry_choc_torte_closeup_cherries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sour Cherry Chocolate Torte

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

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

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

Posted in Desserts, on March 2nd, 2020.

sour_cream_walnut_brownies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Sour Cream Walnut Brownies

Serving Size: 16 (or more)

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

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

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