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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.

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:

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. The book IS a novel, but the event is true. 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. On the voyage the ship encounters a hurricane and several giraffes are lost, but two young ones survive. The story is of their journey across the United States in the care of two oh-so-different people, both with a mission. A young boy (barely an adult) becomes the driver (his only goal is his desire to go to California), with the zoo’s delegate (a middle-aged man with a past), and it’s the story about these two misfits and their caring for the giraffes, feeding them (that’s a laugh – onions play a big part). No freeways existed back then, and the mental picture of the vehicle they used (basically a small truck) with the two giraffes confined within two tall boxes precariously strapped to the truck, and their driving and carrying-on getting under bridges and over rivers is just a hoot. I so wanted this story to be true – parts of it ARE true. Worth reading if you enjoy such animal stories. The giraffes survive, thankfully, and they both lived to a ripe old age at the zoo!

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. Maybe she had a bucket list of sorts, and she knew none of those places would ever happen in her life if she stayed put. She sets off to find a long-lost girlfriend. The book is about her journey. Her travels. Friendships, and lost friendships. Everyone can probably empathize with Kay Bright as she examines her life. And yes, there are letters and chapters with her daughter, Stella. Cute book.

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. A novel, however. About her work life and the harrassment she endures (some of it’s with love, some not) and about her relationships. The pros and cons of transferring to a different fire station (just like any job move, not always smooth). Good read.

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. Such relationships were fraught with problems from the very strict Japanese families who resented the American presence in their country, to the American military higher-ups who made it impossible for the servicemen to marry Japanese nationals. Could hardly put it down. Yes, it’s a romance of sorts, but not in the typical sense of today’s novel-romance-writing. There aren’t always happy beginnings, middles or endings, but the in between made for very interesting reading.

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. Wow. What an eye-opener. Of their small but loyal family enclaves, the hard-scrabble lives they led, the near poverty level of farming. I’d never heard that any Indian migrants were a part of farming here in California. Obviously they made up a very small percentage of the immigrants who settled there.

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. Fascinating glimpse into the hardships not only for patients (the war-wounded) but for the underappreciated and hardworking staff at various hospitals (even a tent one in Normandy where she worked for many months after D-Day). She meets her to-be husband and even that is fraught with difficulty from many angles.

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. My friend Ann recommended it. I was gripped with the story within the first paragraph, and it never stopped until I turned the last page. 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. Some very ugly things happen at that school. Eventually they  escape, and they are “on the run.” With a few others with them. If you loved Huckleberry Finn, you’ll have a great appreciation for this story as they use a canoe to get themselves down river. Never having very much to eat and getting into trouble way too often, and authorities on their tail. Well, you just have to read the book to find out what happens.

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. The book is heartbreaking, but one of those that everyone should read. The hardship, the hunger, the dirt and dust, the failed crops, the lack of rain, then the story picks up again in central California, back in the day when the wealthy growers just used up the migrants. I don’t want to spoil the story. So worth reading. Hannah really knows how to weave a story.

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 woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks. The father was very dark, but he plays no part, really, in this story. Growing up, the girls leave home at 18 to find their way in New Orleans. Suddenly, one twin disappears (her clothes and suitcase all gone in the wink of an eye). Her twin left behind has no idea what’s happened to her. As the story reveals, with divided paths, one twin continues her life as a black woman, and the other twin, the one who left, is able to pass as a white woman. She marries well, has a daughter. Well, let’s just say that there are lots of wicked webs woven throughout the story, starting from the girls’ mother who never wants to speak again of her lost daughter. But you know where this is going, don’t you? Things are found out. The author does a great job of weaving the story apart and then back together.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress. She was a brilliant mind, and a beautiful woman. It tells the story of her coming of age, how she navigated the world of acting back in that time period (she was Austrian, and Hitler was in power). The writing was very well done – to tell Hedy’s story with detail and poignancy. Eventually Hedy made it to the U.S. and her life story changed, but still had its difficulties. I loved the book, beginning to end. She should have become an engineer as she invented several war related bomb tools. 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, when aristocrats were chased and killed, guillotined in many cases. There is a young couple (part of the royal court) who escape to a remote small castle owned by his family, located on the edge of France and Italy, hoping to wait out the revolution and hoping the villagers love and care about them. Then jump to current day as a small English group of close friends decide to retire somewhere on the continent, and settle on a small abandoned castle in the remote hills of France along the Italian border. Got the picture? The historian in the group is quite interested in the history of the home, and clues are revealed (in the tower) that lead her and the group on a quest to discover what happened to the couple who used to live there. There was a fire once upon a time. There’s an pesky ghost. There’s also a very old child’s doll/playhouse on the grounds. Plus there’s a small graveyard. It is VERY intriguing. 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. 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.

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.

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.

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. 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.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Desserts, on 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)

* Exported from MasterCook *

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)

* Exported from MasterCook *

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)

* Exported from MasterCook *

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)

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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.

Posted in Desserts, on December 6th, 2019.

germ_choc_pecan_pie

Like Pecan Pie? Like chocolate? What a combo.

Pecan pie has never been something at the top of my sweets list of likes. My mother used to make one at Christmas or Thanksgiving because my dad liked it. Not me so much – mostly because they were always too sweet and sticky. A bite or two over my lifetime, yes, I’ve had a slice. But not usually by choice – only if it had been embarrassing to not take some. I’d pick at it. Well, now, with this recipe, from a Phillis Carey class, I may be on the bandwagon – but only if it’s made this way. With chocolate on the bottom. And whipped cream on top. The crust I can’t have, although I now have a pie crust recipe that’s lectin-free – haven’t tried it yet. This pie isn’t quite as sweet as some, and the sticky texture wasn’t quite so predominant. I ate the interior of the pie and all the whipped cream. So delicious.

The original recipe came from Rachel Ray. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if a chocolate pecan pie has been around the block over the years. Who knows, really, where it originated.

What’s GOOD: the chocolate layer inside. The not-quite-so-sticky filling. And definitely the whipped cream that cuts the richness.

What’s NOT: only the work required to make a pie crust and pie.

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German Chocolate Pecan Pie

Recipe By: Cooking class with Phillis Carey, Nov. 2019
Serving Size: 8

CRUST:
1 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 ounces unsalted butter — cut into small pieces
1/4 cup ice water
FILLING:
2 large eggs
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 1/2 cups pecan halves — (about 10 ounces) coarsely chopped
3/4 cup sweetened coconut flakes
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
TOPPING:
2/3 cup heavy cream — whipped
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

1. In a food processor, pulse the flour with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add the chilled butter pieces and pulse until coarse crumbs form, about 5 seconds. Drizzle in the ice water and pulse just until the dough comes together. Wrap in plastic wrap; flatten to form a disk. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.
2. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 12-inch round; transfer to a pie pan. Cut the excess dough to leave a 1/2-inch overhang. Using your fingers, roll the dough edge under and crimp. Prick the bottom of the pie shell with a fork; refrigerate for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees .
3. Line the shell with foil and pie weights or dried beans; bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and beans, reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake for another 12 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the eggs. In a heavy, medium saucepan, whisk together the remaining 5 tablespoons butter and 1/2 teaspoon salt with the brown sugar and corn syrup over medium heat until melted and smooth. Whisk the sugar mixture into the beaten eggs. Stir in the nuts and coconut.
5. Spread the chocolate chips in the pie shell. Pour in the filling and bake until set, about 25 minutes. Let the pie cool completely before slicing.
6. Whip heavy cream with sugar and add a big dollop on each slice.
Per Serving: 769 Calories; 57g Fat (63.9% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 65g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 131mg Cholesterol; 345mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on November 9th, 2019.

cherry_cheesecake_trifle

The title is a bit of a misnomer, I think. There isn’t much “trifle” here. It’s a layered kind of cheesecake pudding with Amaretto overtones and accented with sweet, dark cherries.

My friend Cherrie does a girls’ luncheon every October. She calls it a witches lunch and does all kinds of witch-type themes. We’re supposed to come in some kind of costume. I wore a Halloween apron that says BOO on it. I’ve never been much of a costume person. Most of the ladies had very fancy Halloween head paraphernalia, or hats, or scarves, or orange/black feathers. The apron was just fine for me. Some just wore black. But all that aside, it was very fun. I offered to bring dessert and this pudding kind of thing seemed just right.

The original recipe came from Taste of Home (I didn’t try to look it up online), just copied it from a booklet Cherrie gave me. What’s missing from the recipe for a “trifle” is some kind of cake – like ladyfingers, or pound cake – which is more common in a trifle. So how it got named a trifle is beyond me.

What you see there in the cup (a beverage cup) is a layer of Amaretto-scented cheesecake pudding (not a cooked type), a layer of dark sweet cherries, then topped with a bunch of Cool-Whip, then accented with one cherry and some shaved chocolate. I made the cheesecake part (most of it) the day before. It’s merely cream cheese, powdered sugar and Amaretto mixed together. Just before serving you lighten it up with some Cool-Whip. That was a little bit tedious as the cheesecake part was relatively firm, and the other, obviously, very light and fluffy. It took a couple of minutes of light folding to get it all to combine. It worked. That went into the bottom of the cup. The day before I’d also cooked the frozen cherries with sugar and vanilla and let them chill in the refrigerator overnight.

Cherrie’s daughter-in-law Brianna helped me compose all these desserts. I was very grateful for her help because it was a bit tedious to make these for 13 people. Probably took about 20 minutes altogether with two of us working at it. So, one piece of advice, don’t make this for a large group (recipe said not to make it ahead, probably because of the Cool-Whip not holding  up in the cheesecake part). For 6-8 people, it wouldn’t be difficult.

Since I’ve now made this, I’ve decided to change-up the recipe a little bit. First, I’d use real whipped cream for the topping. But I’d still use the Cool-Whip for the cheesecake part. I’d also cook the cherries differently – I’d use my favorite recipe for cherries, Fresh Bing Cherry Compote. They’re flavored with allspice, clove and cinnamon and poached in red wine. THIS recipe used frozen cherries – which will work just fine with that recipe for fresh Bing cherries. The only other change I’ve made to this recipe is to use some of the flavorful juice – I spooned some of it in the middle, and then some more on the top. Made the finished dessert look prettier. So, the recipe below incorporates all of those changes I’d make.

What’s GOOD: so creamy and delicious. If you don’t like cream, or creamy pudding like desserts, give this a pass. It was a great dessert in my book.

What’s NOT: you can’t make this up ahead – needs composing just before serving. Also, it’s a bit time-consuming to assemble, so don’t make this for a big group. Much too tedious. But for 6-8 it would be fine.

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Cherry Cheesecake Trifles

Recipe By: Adapted from Taste of Home
Serving Size: 6

CHERRIES:
1 pound cherries — fresh, stemmed, pitted, halved *
1/4 cup sugar
1 whole clove
1 whole allspice berry
1 stick cinnamon
1/2 cup red wine
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
AMARETTO CREAM CHEESE FILLING:
8 ounces cream cheese — softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons Amaretto
8 fluid ounces Cool Whip® — Extra Creamy type, thawed
TRIFLE:
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
GARNISH:
6 cherries — from the cooked batch above
shaved chocolate

* Or use same quantity of frozen and thawed unsweetened cherries. Recipe indicates using frozen (hence cold) may affect cooking time.
1. CHERRIES: In a medium saucepan heat cherries, sugar, clove, allspice berry, cinnamon and red wine over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Add the balsamic vinegar and stir in. If possible, make this a day ahead and chill, allowing the flavors to meld.
2. FILLING: In a medium bowl, beat softened cream cheese and sugar with a mixer at med-high speed until smooth and creamy. Add Amaretto, beating to combine. Add whipped topping and beat until smooth. Do not make this ahead.
3. TRIFLE: Whip the heavy cream with sugar until stiff peaks form. Layer Amaretto cream cheese on bottom of short parfait glasses or cups, a layer of cherries with some of the juice, then add the whipped cream. With a spoon, swirl the whipped cream up to a slight peak if possible and that’s where you’ll place the single cherry.
4. GARNISH: Garnish with additional cherries if available, drizzle with a bit more of the cherry juices and shave chocolate over the top.
Per Serving: 521 Calories; 31g Fat (54.0% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 54g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 96mg Cholesterol; 148mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, Gundry-friendly, on October 6th, 2019.

gf_almond_brownies

Decadent tasting, full of chocolate, chocolate chips and chopped almonds. AND gluten free.

Last week I had a new friend come to visit for a few hours. She’s a Type 1 diabetic (like my DH was) and she does her best to avoid carbs. I introduced her to chaffles (you can google it – it’s quite a phenom in the low carb world). My chaffle is not really one made with cheese (that what the ch means in the name, the affle means it’s made in a little Sur La Table Dash Mini Waffle Maker waffle iron which makes one waffle round). Mine was made of egg and a tetch of almond flour, a tablespoon of mayo, baking powder and water. I doubt many of you would be interested in any of this, but they make a great substitute for bread. Put two together and you have a sandwich. If you’re interested in the recipe, click that link.

Anyway, when I pulled out my bag of Costco’s Kirkland almond flour to demonstrate how easy it is to make a sandwich chaffle, my friend Vicki asked if I’d tried the almond brownie recipe on the back of the bag. Nope, had not. But it got my taste buds hankering for brownies.

Daughter Sara and her husband were here this weekend so I had a reason to make these brownies. I did use Hershey’s cocoa powder extra dark – so the resulting brownies were really dark/black. Regular cocoa powder might not make them so dark colored. Me? I’m all into the intense flavor. But, if I’d made them for myself, I’d have eaten them all – myself. Not good. Even though they’re GF, and not too high in fat, they’re still calories. As I’m writing this, there are just 4 left. Maybe I’ll freeze them so I can dole them out to myself slowly. We’ll see how THAT goes! I cut them into small squares – I think I got more than 16 out of the 8×8 pan. But you can cut them any size you want.

Because I loved them. And I know my cousin Gary, who loves carbs and chocolate, but is GF, will love these too. He’s not much of a baker, so I’ll make a batch for him when he comes to visit next month. I mixed these up in a bowl with my hand mixer and they baked for about 30+ minutes. Once cooled, these were still quite wet/sticky, but by this morning they were perfect for picking up in hand and didn’t fall apart. I forgot to put more almonds on top. Made no never-mind in the end. These are delicious. I did use some sugar (not supposed to have any sugar, but I used half and half with artificial sugar). I think next time I’ll use a little less sugar and Swerve – I think they’re quite sweet.

What’s GOOD: the intense chocolate flavor. Love that I can have a brownie recipe that satisfies my desire for something brownie-like. The longer I’m on a no-flour diet, I realize how much white flour is used in everyday cooking, and how incredibly versatile it is. AND how important it is to making baked goods have the texture they do. Can’t get that with any of the substitute flours out there. Anyway, I loved these and will most definitely be making them again.

What’s NOT: nothing really – you do need almond flour. Trader Joe’s brand does have the skins in with the flour in their bag (which I can’t have on this diet – lectins live in the skins of almonds, amongst hundreds of other places in various foods). Kirkland’s is ground up blanched almonds. That’s what I buy now and keep it in the freezer to store it so it stays fresher, longer. What these don’t have if a ton of chewiness – they’re quite tender and soft. You won’t get chew from almond flour, I guess.

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Gluten-Free Chocolate Almond Brownies

Recipe By: adapted slightly from Kirkland brand almond flour package
Serving Size: 16

2 tablespoons butter — softened
1/4 cup Swerve — or other artificial sweetener
1/4 cup sugar — or use all artificial
1 egg
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk — or whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup almond flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup almonds — chopped
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
More almonds for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Cream together butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl. Blend in egg. Blend in almond milk and vanilla.
3. In another bowl, whisk together almond flour, cocoa powder, sea salt and baking powder. Add to butter mixture and blend just until mixed. Stir in chopped almonds and chocolate chips.
4. Coat an 8 X 8 baking pan with non-sticking cooking spray. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 30-35 minutes.
5. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before slicing and serving. They’re better if allowed to cool well (like overnight). Right out of the oven they may be quite wet and sticky, hard to hold together.
5. Garnish with more chopped almonds or with sliced almonds, toasted. Goes well with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Per Serving: 98 Calories; 6g Fat (42.3% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 17mg Cholesterol; 66mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on September 10th, 2019.

lemon_curd_pudding

You love lemon? Oh, this pudding is for you. Tart and sweet.

One of my granddaughters (Taylor) is visiting me from Northern California. She graduated with a BS from Cal State Sacramento last May and is waiting to hear if she’s been admitted to a fast-track nursing school. If so, she’ll graduate in a year with a BSN. So she’s enjoying time off. Taylor and I were invited to friends the other night for dinner and I offered to bring dessert. I found this recipe in my repertoire of recipes to try – I thought it was a recipe from Marie Rayner, but I can’t find it on her blog.

lemon_curd_pudding_without_toppingAnyway, the original recipe was a pudding with a meringue topping. I’m not such a fan of meringue (like in pie) so I made it with a whipped cream topping flavored with limoncello. The pudding was easy enough to make. I used my copper-core All-Clad pan and put it on top of a flame tamer too, but by doing so I was able to make the pudding in it rather than resorting to a double boiler, which is what the recipe recommends. Anyway, added egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, cream cheese, sour cream. It was warmed up to a slow simmer and thickened a bit (not much, really), cooled, then I mixed in some heavy cream. Poured it into little cups, cooled and chilled.

Then, just before serving I whipped some cream to soft peaks, added a jot of limoncello. I didn’t add any sugar as the pudding was sweet enough already, I believed. Garnished with a mint leaf from Bud & Cherrie’s herb garden. The pudding isn’t a firm pudding – a soft, gentle one.

If you wanted to use the leftover egg whites, by all means, make a meringue with 2 & 2/3 tablespoons of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar and pour over the pudding. Bake at 425°F for about 6 minutes until the meringue is lightly browned.

lemon_curd_pudding_group

Here they are all lined up to serve. Even though it’s still very much summer here in SoCal, Cherrie has brought out all of her fall stuff. Loved the little fall-color plates she’d put out for me to use.

What’s GOOD: love-loved the lemony, tart flavor. I wanted to lick the little ramekin. Not nice to do that! Liked the fact that it was a small serving. Super smooth (make sure you get all of the little tiny pieces of cream cheese to dissolve smoothly into the pudding – Taylor helped me and we used a spring coil whisk to make that happen).

What’s NOT: a little bit tricky to transport, but it all worked fine. Nothing else.

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

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Lemon Curd Pudding with Limoncello Whipped Cream

Serving Size: 8

3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
4 ounces cream cheese
1 1/3 cups sour cream
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 1/3 teaspoons lemon zest — grated
2/3 cup heavy cream
WHIPPED CREAM:
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons limoncello
8 small mint sprigs

1. Beat the egg yolks in a mixing bowl. Whisk in the sugar, cream cheese and sour cream. Blend until smooth. Use a spring coil whisk to make sure you dissolve all of the cream cheese. Add the lemon juice and the zest.
2. Place n the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Cook and stir until the mixture bubbles and thickens. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
3. Whip the cream until thick. Fold this into the lemon mixture. Divide the pudding between custard cups or ramekins. Chill until serving time.
4. TOPPING: Whip the heavy cream and add limoncello at the end. You can add sugar to this if you think it’s needed. Spoon onto the ramekins. Garnish each with a mint sprig. Make small servings, which is fine as it’s rich.
Per Serving: 336 Calories; 28g Fat (74.2% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 160mg Cholesterol; 79mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, Uncategorized, on August 11th, 2019.

The Right Way to Make Tres Leches Cake!

This cake is easy and delicious without the soggy mess. 

A post from Sara – I’ve made a few Tres Leches cakes in my time and have always been disappointed with the soggy mess left by the milk mixture.  Finally, I’ve found a cake that can stand up to the mixture and a trick to prevent the sogginess thanks to Ina Garten.   There is no butter or oil in this cake which, in my opinion, allows the cake to absorb it after baking.  I think traditionally the Tres Leche cake is frosted with either meringue or a whipped topping.  I love the simple square cut of the cake topped with whipped cream and berries.  It’s much easier to store and serve which makes it a perfect make-ahead dessert.  Just whip up the cream and toss the strawberries together before serving.  I used strawberries from Bonsall Farms here in Vista.  It’s a local grower and the berries are naturally sweet perfectly red all the way through.  I actually decided not to add the extra sugar into the berries.

The trick with this cake is to beat the sugar and eggs for 10 minutes.  Yes!  Really!  It leaves the eggs thick and fluffy and a pale yellow color.  Then add the milk and flour mixture alternately.  Mix it a couple more times by hand to be sure its combined.  After it’s baked and cooled slightly, you are ready to add the milk mixture.  GO SLOWLY… pour 1/4 of mixture over punctured cake, then wait until its all absorbed.  Then another 1/4 of mixture and so on.  It allows the cake to take in the liquid rather than it sinking to the bottom of the pan and becoming a soggy mess.

Just wanted to say that mom and I (OK, just me!) having technical difficulty adding the .pdf recipe file into the blog.  So, I officially give up.  Please print screen from here or cut and paste the recipe into word processor.  Sorry.

What’s Good:  I love how easy this cake is to make.  I almost always have the ingredients in my pantry.  And I am all about make ahead dishes.

What’s Not:  It’s definitely a plan ahead dessert.  This would not work for an unexpected guest.

Tres Leches Cake with Berries

Recipe By : Farmhouse Rules
Serving Size : 12

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs — room temperature
1 cup sugar
5 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
12 ounces evaporated milk
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 vanilla bean — scrape seeds
whipped cream — for topping
8 cups strawberries, sliced

1. Pre heat oven to 350 and butter 9×13″ pan.
2. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into small bowl and set aside.
3. Place eggs, 1c sugar and vanilla extract into bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle. Beat on medium-high for 10 min (really!) until light yellow and fluffy.
4. Reduce speed to low and slowly add flour mixture, then milk, then last of flour mixture.
5. Pour into prepared pan, smooth top and bake for 25 mins, until cake springs back when touched and cake tester comes out clean.
6. Set aside to cool in pan for 30 mins.
7. In a 4c measuring cup, whisk together the heavy cream, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, almond extract and vanilla bean seeds. Using a skewer, poke holes all over the cooled cake and slowly pour cream mixture over the cake allowing to be absorbed completely before continuing to pour more. Cover cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hrs.
8. To serve, toss strawberries with 5T sugar, cut square of cake, add strawberries and whipped cream.

Per Serving: 432 Calories; 16g Fat (33.4% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 64g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 108mg Cholesterol; 320mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on July 28th, 2019.

red_hot_cool_strawberries_serving

Oh goodness. Was this dessert ever the hit of the party. If strawberry season is still available where you live, this will have you swooning.

Having invited 8 friends over for dinner last night (9 with me included), I began working on the menu. Because, as a widow, I’m doing all the work myself, I’ve learned that I have to choose things that are do-able for me. Definitely not the more elaborate menus I might have done when Dave was alive. He was a huge help to me when we entertained. Yes, I miss him for that and many other reasons, but getting ready for a dinner party was one of his favorite things!

Since I knew we’d be eating outside, that meant at least a couple hour’s work – cleaning up the patio to be ready for guests, setting the table, cleaning the outdoor countertop where I serve buffet style, getting ready to grill, removing all the towels that drape across all the outdoor furniture when I’m not out there, plus shopping and preparing all the food, of course.

So, I’d already decided to do my easy favorite, the Grilled Salmon with Watercress Salad that has been a part of my cooking repertoire for at least 25 years. Only one store in my area still stocks the full grown watercress (not the puny one in the root ball), so that was about a 25 minute drive just to get there. A separate stop for the salmon and peppers to grill with the salmon, and then another shopping trip for everything else.

So. Dessert. Since strawberries are still available, I’d seen a recipe for a strawberry compote kind of thing where the strawberries are cooked with chile de arbol and served with a refreshing whipped-up sauce of yogurt and cream cheese. It just sounded SO different, I had to try it.

Image result for chile de arbolThe strawberries were cut up into about 1/2” pieces. Meanwhile I cooked, so to speak, the dried chile. First I removed the stem and seeds from 2 chile de arbol. See photo at right. They’re long, skinny. And dried, of course. They’re low on the Scoville scale, although I might be readjusting this recipe to use a little LESS of the chile. I think the package said they’re a 9500, roughly about twice as hot as a jalapeno chile. I kind of flattened the chiles and put them into a medium-high heated ceramic pan and let it absorb the heat. It never got to the point of smoking, but the recipe indicated until the chile was slightly browned. I couldn’t really tell if it was browned, necessarily. I did it for about 4-5 minutes, I’d guess. The chiles were cooled, then put into a mortar and I ground it up into a fairly small bit of chile dust. You could use a spice grinder for this, also. My hands felt the heat, however, from handling them. Even a couple of hours later I could still feel the heat around one of my fingernails.

hot_strawberriesI cooked the strawberries with just a little bit of sugar (and the chile dust) until they’d begun to slump and lose their shape. The recipe I started with suggested cooking 15 minutes. No. Lot less than that. I think I stopped at about 8 minutes and as the strawberries cooled they cooked even more. Definitely you should undercook them. Those were cooled and then chilled. You could definitely make this a day ahead.

Well, then. So I tasted them. Oooh. That chile de arbol has an afterburn. In the interim, however, I’d made the sauce it was initially to be paired with – a mixture of yogurt (I used coconut yogurt) and cream cheese. But having tasted the strawberries, I knew immediately that the little bit of yogurt sauce wasn’t going to be enough to temper the heat. So, I revised my plan altogether and made a kind of Eton Mess. Here on my blog you’ll find a recipe that I’ve made for years that’s a riff on the English college’s favorite desserts, a way to use up some berries or fruit.

red_hot_cool_tray

There’s a photo of the tray of them. I had my friend Cherrie help me putting them all together. First, though, 30 minutes before I was planning to serve the ice cream, I moved the tub of vanilla ice cream to the refrigerator. I read this hint recently for easier scooping. It worked like a CHARM!. I’ll be doing that little trick from now on. Just don’t forget to put the remaining ice cream back into the freezer!

First, into the bottom went a nice ball of ice cream. Then chilled berries on top (don’t use them all because you put more on top later). Then the drizzle of the yogurt/cream cheese mixture, a few more berries, then a big dollop of sweetened whipped cream. Trader Joe’s stocks a vanilla meringue cookie – it literally never gets stale – my tub of them has been in my pantry for at least 2 years. A couple of those were crushed up and just a tiny sprinkling of the meringue went on top of each serving. Top with a mint sprig AND a shaving of dark chocolate. You could put another berry on top too, if you’d like to. I like the dark green to be contrasted with the cream, however. The original recipe came from a recent issue of Food and Wine, but I made so many changes to it, it hardly resembles what was in the magazine.

Then these beauties were served. I warned everyone that there was some heat to the dessert – I think I saw some frowns at the table. Like whaaat? Then everyone began and there was stunned silence at the table. Just the clink of spoons in the glass compote dishes. Then began the oohs and aaahs. I think 3 of my friends said “is this going to be on your blog?” Obviously I needed to say yes. I’ll also be posting the pasta salad I made too. I didn’t eat any of it, but I heard raves all around about it. As people were finishing up, several said, oh that dessert was just the best part of the dinner.

What’s GOOD: oh, gracious. Every single solitary morsel of this was beyond wonderful. I have some leftover berries – I’ll be having them over some ice cream. (And no, regular ice cream isn’t on my diet, but I’m having it anyway.)

What’s NOT: I can’t think of anything . . . you do need to make the berry compote ahead of time, with time for it to chill. And you’ll need to find chile de arbol. I had considered using a big, fat jalapeno chile in it if I hadn’t found the dried chiles. Obviously, do NOT serve this to people who don’t like spicy, chile-induced heat.

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

Red, Hot, and Cool Strawberries – riff on Eton Mess

Recipe By: Adapted from a Food & Wine recipe
Serving Size: 8

2 chile de árbol — stemmed and seeded or similar chile
14 ounces strawberries — hulled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup superfine sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup Greek yogurt, full-fat — or coconut yogurt
4 ounces cream cheese — softened
8 scoops vanilla ice cream
3 small meringue cookies — crumbled
2/3 cup heavy cream — whipped, with sugar and vanilla
Fresh mint leaves — for garnish

1. Heat a small skillet over high; add chile, and cook, tossing occasionally, until toasted and a nutty aroma is released, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from skillet, and crush in a mortar and pestle.
2. Stir together crushed chile, strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil over high, and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened and syrupy, about 8-12 minutes. (Strawberries should mostly keep their shape; if they start collapsing, remove from heat sooner.) Remove from heat, and let strawberry mixture cool completely, about 25 minutes. Chill.
3. While strawberry mixture cools, whisk together yogurt and cream cheese in a medium bowl until smooth. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
4. Scoop ice cream into bottom of each serving dish, spoon on some of the strawberries, drizzle with yogurt mixture, add more strawberries, then spoon whipped cream on top. Grate a tiny bit of bar chocolate on top, then garnish with mint leaves, and serve.
Per Serving: 321 Calories; 21g Fat (58.4% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 29g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 81mg Cholesterol; 115mg Sodium.

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