Monday, November 8, 2010

Chicken and Artichoke Soup

This colder weather (that I love) has me wanting stews and soups every night. Warm and of wine...good bread...losing focus here...

This soup seems to have a lot of stuff to do but it is surprisingly fairly quick to throw together. It is also a great way to use up any chicken leftover from the night before.


olive oil

1/2 package of bacon (yes bacon - do not skip this for this particular soup)

2 carrots - chopped about a half inch in size

2 stalks of celery - chopped as close as possible to size of carrots

1 onion - chopped as well

4 cloves of garlic - minced

about 3 cups shredded or chopped chicken

about 6 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)

1 package frozen artichoke hearts - thawed and chopped

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 or 3 sprigs thyme

1 bay leaf

fresh basil

a little garlic powder (this seems to give the whole thing a very nice smoky flavor)



1 can white kidney beans (optional - but recommended)


In a dutch oven or soup pot add a little olive oil and crisp the bacon. Remove and let drain on a paper towel - chop up either large or small (my family likes to find big chunks of bacon in here so I leave the pieces pretty good size) then set aside. 
Back to your pot, remove "most" of the bacon grease. To the little bit of bacon grease left, add carrots, celery, onion and garlic and cook everything until the carrots are just softened. Then add the chopped chicken - add salt and pepper. Cook all together for another five minutes or so. Add the tomato paste and mix to coat everything in the pot. FOOD 263

Now stir in the chicken stock, about 1/2 cup of chopped basil, thyme sprigs, a couple dashes of garlic powder and the bay leaf. Bring all to a boil then bring heat to medium low and cover - let simmer about 20 minutes (maybe thirty) Add artichokes, white kidney beans and toss the bacon back in - cook for another 10 to 15 minutes more. 
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Remove thyme sprigs and the bay leaf. Salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with more fresh basil and serve  
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Pound Cake and Berry Compote

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I did make this pound cake. But honestly, I think one purchased from your local bakery will work just fine.

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I probably should not call this a compote since I skipped the whole step of making the simple syrup and adding vanilla or any other flavorings. This is basically a cup and a half of fresh berries - zest from 1 lemon and juice from half the lemon - then 1 tablespoon of sugar (more or less depending on your tastes) Put all ingredients in a small saucepan and cook on low heat just until the liquid looks syrupy (I think thats a word?) Immediately remove from heat - pour over a slice of pound cake - add whipped cream (I forgot that part) serve immediately.

Quick and tasty

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Apple Hill Adventure

Honestly...the yearly Apple Hill trip is torture. We go to the places we think the kids will like. They ride the little sad beaten down looking ponies. We eat 45 pounds of Kettle Korn. There is usually a hot-dog or two involved (definitely fine dining). The traffic is HORRID. It's always too hot and gross or too cold and gross. And then we come home exhausted.

This year was actually really, really fun! Even though it was a little chilly and rainy all day everyone was in a good mood (this means me) There was not the usual gobs of traffic. And we made all the perfect stops for the perfect amount of time.

I'm sharing this because there were a couple things that were outstanding and I think that if any of you get the chance to go you should definitely put this on your to-do list. 

Just to assist with the layout of the land
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Of course the wineries are always a MUST DO 
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We actually stopped at most of the highlighted farms. Crazy - I know.
But this year we stopped at Jack Russell Brewery. HIGHLY RECOMMEND. Totally cool little pub like room serving some pretty excellent beers and ciders. Fantastic customer service. Outdoor tents set up with various vendors and some very good sandwiches. Also suggest you purchase one of these to send your five year old to kindergarten in the following Monday.

I'm getting a little ahead of myself. We actually stopped first at all the places the kids enjoy. They did the usual train rides - pony rides - kettle korn gluttony - too much chocolate sampling - etc...But at the Kids Inc. farm (map #1) they had this very cute little shop that had the best Balsamic Vinegar I have had in a very, very long time. Along with some beautiful Olive Oils to sample and purchase. There was also quite a few pieces of pottery and artwork that I fell in love with.  
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Best Balsamic Vinegar....and the favorite Olive oil of the tastings.

Check this out. It will be worth it.

My favorite small oil dish purchase 
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I cant find the paper that had the name of the artist but if anyone is interested let me know and I will look harder.

The other favorite thing... 
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They call this "The Walkin Pie"  nough said...(yes - it was as big as it looks)

Get this to pour on top of this crazy piece of pie
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Yes - it is as delicious as it looks - and Yes - pour it on everything else after

We of course did the tour of wineries with all us adults taking turns playing with kids outside. Ended the day at Boeger where the kids played and ran through that beautiful little park area out front and I tried to figure out how to get the following items into my vehicle
Apple Hill 17 oct 2010 044

Good day. Go if you get the chance. Take the kids. It'll be fun.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Rubber Eraser Fruits served on a hand Sculpted Play-Doh Platter

Me to my daughter "go play please...I need to post on the blog" 

Daughter "why cant you play with me?!" (yes - in that rather bothersome tone they can have)

Me "not right now - I will come play when I'm finished"

Daughter exits

I start typing

About 15 minutes later daughter runs into kitchen to get large baking sheet

Daughter exits

5 minutes later daughter returns carrying tray with "food ready for photo for the blog"

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"WAIT MOM! The bananas are falling!"

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I'm trying really, really hard NOT to laugh and discourage her so we take several photos and I let her pick the best ones.

1 container play-doh.....$1.00

several pieces rubber fruit erasers.....$2.87

large baking sheet.....2 pack from large warehouse center $11.75

daughter saying "PLEASE post on the blog so I can be famous like you mom!"..... priceless .....

i love this child

FOOD 393

Butternut Squash Soup w/Homemade Croutons

So I'm looking through all my food photos lamenting the poor quality of every single image when I hear the voice of a five year old yell from the dining room "stop complaining mom! You get whatcha get and ya dont throw a fit!"   Do I ground her forever  - or do I kiss her for the wise words?

I'm going to go ahead and post and just apologize for not having a professional photographer with all the cool gear at my disposal every time I need to take a photo.

Butternut squash soup - everyone I know seems to be making it right now so I figured I would get on the bandwagon and make some myself. I also did a little reading on where this particular squash originated and apparently it is Made in the USA and was an accident - something about a farmer not wanting a squash as awkward and ugly as a Gooseneck but smaller than a Hubbard.

Okay.....I'm getting on with it. I like this soup rather thick but you can go ahead and adjust the liquid until you reach your desired consistency. And as usual - adjust the seasoning to make it as sweet or peppery as you wish.


dutch oven or some other large pot

vegetable steamer (unless you have one of those nifty pots with the steamer thing in it)

immersion blender (if you have not invested in an immersion blender - which i highly recommend you do - use a regular blender but do the chunks of squash in batches - removing creamed parts when done and adding chunky parts...etc....also adding liquid a little at a time as needed)

1 large Butternut Squash

4 tablespoons butter

1 shallot

6 cups water

1/2 cup heavy cream

dark brown sugar

fresh nutmeg




Prep your squash. Cut in half crosswise (the part with the seeds will all be on the one half) - then cut each half in half again - now exposing two halves with seeds and strings - DO NOT toss the seeds and strings. In your dutch oven - melt the butter then add the shallot and cook until translucent. Now add the seeds and strings and cook until the mixture is reddish/orangish and pretty - 7 or 8 minutes.

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Now add 6 cups of water and a little salt then bring it all to a boil. Reduce heat to medium - place steamer basket in 

This is what I have that works just fine
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Add squash pieces
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Cover and steam 30 minutes to almost an hour depending on the size of your squash. After 30 minutes I start poking the biggest piece with a fork to see if they are done (the constant removal of the lid is probably why mine take almost an hour)

When done - remove the pieces to let cool for a few minutes. Remove steamer basket then strain all the liquid into another large bowl or very large measuring cup - this will make it easy to add liquid as needed. 

Scrape the flesh from the skin and put back into the pot. Puree with the immersion blender adding a little liquid every few minutes - just enough to keep the mixture smooth and easy to mix. 
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Once the mixture is completely smoothed out add 1/2 cup of cream - 1 or 2 teaspoons brown sugar - 3 or 4 scrapes of fresh nutmeg - little salt and pepper then start adding the reserved liquid until you reach the desired consistency (you will probably have some liquid left over) Season to taste and serve immediately with yummy bread or homemade croutons or both.

FOOD 299

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Glorified Pizza Margherita

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I guess I should have called this site "1o1 things to do with puff pastry"!  I didn't realize how much I use it until I started posting on this blog.  

Anyway, was watching a rather famous cooking show the other day and the hostess made these very adorable little tart things - individually covering each 2 inch round with salty cheesy yummy stuff - and I thought 'how cute are those' , and then 'no way do I want to make 24 of them'! So, after only 2 attempts this was the final - very well received - creation!  I had just purchased the tomatoes and basil from the Farmers Market. I always have puff pastry (as you can tell) And I try to keep olive tapenade handy for little recipes like this. As usual, use whatever flavors are your favorite for toppings - I used Fontina but I imagine a good mozzarella or another white cheese would be just as wonderful.   And try not to feel guilty about eating the entire thing yourself!


1 sheet puff pastry

about 2 cups olive tapenade

about 1 cup cherry tomatoes (the little heirloom mix is lovely)

Fontina cheese

Fresh Basil


Lightly flour both sides of the puff pastry then place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper - poke allover with a fork to keep it from puffing - cover with a second sheet of parchment paper - then place a second baking sheet on top (back side down facing pastry) - bake at 400 for about a half hour or until pastry is golden brown FOOD 303

Remove from oven - spread olive tapenade all over the top - then the sliced tomatoes - then the fontina cheese - then fresh basil - then back in the oven for 7 to 9 minutes or until cheese is melted and a little bubbly. Remove from oven - let cool for about 5 minutes then add a little more cheese and a little more basil. Serve immediately. FOOD 309

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Simple Grilled Shrimp/Prawns

Copy of FOOD 260
I have to admit cooking seafood is one of those things that is sometimes perfect and sometimes not so much for me. I imagine it is just a matter of practice so there might be quite a few blogs with shrimp/seafood for the next couple weeks - while I "practice"! This recipe was much easier than I anticipated. Great basic flavors - garlic and lemon - no way I could possibly botch that right? And doing all of the cooking on the grill made it even better and faster and left me with almost no clean up in the kitchen (ALWAYS a great thing!)


1 1/2 to 2 pounds extra large shrimp or prawns - peeled and deveined and tails intact
olive oil
little bit of regular granulated sugar


disposable aluminum pan
8 tablespoons butter - cut into pieces
8 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 or 4 pinches red pepper flakes
5 garlic cloves - finely minced
1/2 cup fresh parsley 

lemon wedges for serving


Combine all the sauce ingredients except the parsley in the disposable aluminum pan.

Rinse and dry the shrimp/prawns. Thread onto skewers - making sure there are no gaps between. Brush  both sides with the olive oil and season with the salt and pepper. Then sprinkle the sugar on one side of each skewer.

Turn gas grill to high and heat until very hot. Scrape clean then leave open about 5 minutes to let cool slightly. 

Set the aluminum pan on the grill and let cook until the  butter is completely melted and garlic is very fragrant - maybe 2 or 3 minutes. Move the pan to a far side and turn that burner off. Place the shrimp skewers with sugared sides down on the hottest side of the grill. Grill uncovered until slightly charred - 4 or 5 minutes (adjust this time according to the size shrimp you have) Flip the skewers and grill another 1 to 2 minutes - just until second side is pink. 
FOOD 247 
Now carefully lift each skewer and - using tongs - scrape all shrimp into disposable pan of sauce. Toss the shrimp and sauce until all the shrimp are coated then slide the pan back onto the hotter side of the grill. Cook - stirring constantly - until all the shrimp are fully cooked and opaque - maybe another minute to minute and half  FOOD 249
Remove from the grill - add parsley - toss all together FOOD 252
Serve with fresh lemon wedges - a fantastic grilled tri tip and peppered mashed potatoes
Copy (2) of FOOD 260


Monday, October 11, 2010

Shrimp Wraps

This is an old post but I'm making them so I thought I would share again - and because they are THAT good!  I also think this is an old America's Test Kitchen recipe but I'm not sure. In any case, I hope you try it - they are Delicious.

I'm not really sure how to describe these - It's a shrimp mix, wrapped in a leaf of butter lettuce. That's about all there is to it but it got RAVE reviews at dinner the other night so I thought I should share with all you out there. The fresh orange and orange juice 'salsa' (I use that word very loosely) coupled with the spicy red chile is a very happy mix with the shrimp and bacon and herbs. Not too labor intensive - except cooking bacon. And as was pointed out to me the other night the "good" of all the fresh ingredients outweighs the "bad" of the bacon so therefore this dish is excellent on the calorie count scale! (not sure how i feel about all that but it was amusing)

Hope you give it a go!


2 oranges - sectioned, seeded and chopped 

1 or 2 hot red chiles - depending on how much heat you like - but definitely use at least one

3 scallions - white and green parts chopped

4 tablespoons fresh cilantro 

10 to 12 Large shrimp - (or more - I think I did close to 20 the other night)

4 - 6 slices bacon - chopped

1 head Butter leaf lettuce

few splashes of white wine 

olive oil




Wash and dry the Butter leaf lettuce then let dry some more on a paper towel.

Chop the oranges, chiles, scallions and cilantro an put all together in a large bowl. Set aside
FOOD 237

Rinse and pat dry all the shrimp. Put into a large bowl and gently toss with a little salt and pepper. Set aside.

Fry the bacon until just crisp. Remove from the pan and set on a plate covered with a paper towel to drain. Set aside. Drain the bacon grease from the pan then use a few splashes of white wine to deglaze the pan - let cook until most all the liquid is gone - make sure to leave the remnants of the bacon for the shrimp. Add a little bit of olive oil and then add the shrimp in one layer in the pan- 2 to 3 minutes per side (may need more time depending on the size you have) You will probably have to do this in batches in order to get all the shrimp done. While working in batches to fry the shrimp I usually remove the tails of the cooked pieces and give them a rough chop.

When all the shrimp is cooked - remove all tails - chop up all pieces - add to the orange chile mixture - add the bacon - 4 tablespoons of olive oil - salt and pepper to taste.

Place 2 or 3 pieces of lettuce on a plate. Fill with 1 or 2 spoonfuls of the shrimp orange mixture then serve immediately.

Friday, October 8, 2010

White Chocolate with nuts and dried fruit

Very quick! Very easy! Very little mess!


Your microwave

1 bag of good white chocolate - i think they are usually about 12 ounces?

1/2 cup toasted and chopped walnuts

handful dried cranberries - chopped

handful dried apricots - chopped

(I have been told I have rather small hands - so I think a handful might be about a 1/4 cup - maybe a little less - and I apologize for forgetting to measure out the quantity...again!)


Toast and chop the walnuts first so they have time to cool - clean baking sheet - oven at 350 - around 7 minutes - give or take a minute depending on your oven. On another clean baking sheet lay out a large piece of parchment paper.  Set aside.  In a microwave safe bowl put all the chocolate in and heat at high in 30 second increments - until all is melted. You will have to stir in between each microwave session. When the chocolate is ready spread out on the baking sheet covered with the parchment paper - spread out to about the size of a standard sheet of printer paper and somewhere between an 1/8 to a 1/4 inch high - i suppose about the size of a thin pancake. Sprinkle all the walnuts evenly across the top - then the dried apricots - then the dried cranberries. Put in fridge for at least 1 hour before breaking into pieces and consuming!  Enjoy!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Brussels Sprouts with bacon and golden raisins

FOOD 214
Brussels Sprouts.....OOOOO??? or EEWWW???
As a child the slimy, gross, martian head looking things were sheer torture! Many a night I went to bed with a growling tummy because I would not eat them. My mother tried dousing them in ketchup, the icky liquid cheese sauce (which I love now) kim chee, soy sauce...nothing worked. Twenty years later I decide to give them a go. Remembering my childhood I am more than a little skeptical but willing to test. This recipe has now become the favorite and most requested item for any size gathering. Try it. It has bacon, how bad could it be?
1 pound brussels sprouts
1/2 package bacon
2 handfuls Golden Raisins - maybe about 3/4 cup?
1/2 to 1 cup chicken broth
I actually chop and cook an entire package of bacon because when I take it out of the pan and leave it to drain I find everyone munching on it and usually end up with about half the package. Which is perfect. So, chop and cook bacon till mostly crispy. While bacon is cooking, wash and cut sprouts in quarters - cutting them up this way makes them cook much faster and much more evenly. Set aside. When the bacon is done remove from the pan and let the pieces drain on a plate covered with a paper towel or two (then watch it disappear) Drain the bacon fat from the pan till you have about a 1/4 cup left. Pan back to stove - add cut up sprouts. On medium high heat stir sprouts until pretty much all are covered with little pieces of bacon and the bacon drippings. Add 1/2 cup of chicken broth and keep stirring for another 5 minutes. Turn heat down to medium low and add the cooked bacon and golden raisins - cook till tender or done to your liking (i do not like them mushy so mine are usually done in 6 or 7 minutes) Stir every couple of minutes to make sure all the pieces are cooking. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Short ribs and Fettucini and bacon and.....

Copy of FOOD 208
YUMMY! Even if it does take about 3 hours from start to finish! But don't panic! This is one of those things that you prepare and throw in a pot then come back occasionally to stir - and taste. I usually like to do this on a weekend when I know I will be home for the afternoon and can monitor the open flame in the kitchen. I guess this is kind of a glorified spaghetti sauce, but it is worth the effort and - as is usually the case with spaghetti sauces (and pizza) - it's even better the next day for lunch.


1 box Fettucini (yes - you can use regular spaghetti)
little Olive Oil
half a package of bacon - chopped (I suppose less of this would be fine...)
3 lbs short ribs
about 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 red onion - chopped
1 carrot - chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley
3 cloves of garlic
1 can diced tomatoes (I like to use the ones that are already seasoned)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
little rosemary - finely chopped
little dried thyme
little dried oregano
1 bay leaf
pinch or two of crushed red pepper flakes
3 cups beef broth
1 cup red wine
parmesan cheese


In large soup pot or dutch oven place a little olive oil and crisp the bacon. Meanwhile season the short ribs with salt and pepper on both sides and dredge in the flour. When bacon is finished remove from the pot and set aside. In the same pan brown the short ribs - 6-7 minutes each side. While browning the ribs combine the onion, carrot, parsley and garlic in a food processor and blend until finely minced. Then add the tomatoes and tomato paste until completely blended.
Once the short ribs are browned remove them from the pot and deglaze with the wine. Add the tomato mixture and the fried bacon and bring to almost boiling. Add all the herbs, the bay leaf, the beef broth then the short ribs back to the pot. Bring all to a boil, then cover and turn heat to low. Simmer for an hour and a half. Remove the lid, stir and simmer for another hour to hour and fifteen minutes. Check back occasionally and give it a stir - maybe a little taste for seasoning purposes.
When all is cooked remove the meat and shred - discard any bones. Return shredded meat to the pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Cook pasta according to package directions. Once done add cooked pasta to the sauce and stir to combine. Add 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid to the sauce - or more if it seems too thick.
Serve immediately with fresh grated parmesan cheese

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fresh Tomato Salad with Marinated Mozzarella

FOOD 107
There is really no reason for posting this other than the fact that it was super pretty...Super delicious....and anything involving cheese balls has to be fantastic...Right? I also loved that all the produce came from the farmers market trip the other day (and did I mention cheese balls?)
I quartered all the tomatoes - very thinly sliced a small yellow pepper - very thinly sliced a little red onion - halved the marinated mozzarella balls (purchased from my local grocery) very thinly sliced a slice of prosciutto (also purchased at my local grocery) tossed all that with a little olive oil and lemon and salt and pepper.
Washed the green leaf lettuce - tore into bite size pieces - tossed it with a little olive oil and lemon.
Then put it all together - added a little extra sliced prosciutto on top - then took a lovely photo
Fresh and easy.

FOOD 112
note: This was also fantastic when i tossed the lettuce with the               orange juice reduction dressing posted earlier (instead of just olive oil and lemon juice)  Did the vegetables the same as above. Yummy!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Pavlovas and Fresh Fruit

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The secret to perfect Pavlovas?  I have no idea. It's beaten egg whites. How hard could they be? I have made some that could have been handed out as weapons at a self-defense class. Others that looked like little baby piles of white.....stuff.....Then there is the day each meringue looks like a white cloud. Delicate, airy and crisp. Then melt in your mouth followed by that lingering sweetness that makes them so loved. Add some fresh fruit and homemade whipped cream. Beautiful.
Hope you try and enjoy.
4 large egg whites at room temperature (note: i find eggs are easier to separate when cold. I usually do this early and leave the egg whites in the bowl of the electric mixer - covered - for an hour or so - until they come to room temperature)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
oven to 200 (and you can do both sheets at the time in the oven)  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Beat egg whites at medium speed until frothy - about a minute. Add cream of tartar and increase the speed to medium high. Beat until egg whites are thick and look like shaving cream. Should take about another 2-3 minutes. Slowly sprinkle in 1/2 cup of sugar and the vanilla. Beat just until incorporated. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the last 1/2 cup of sugar.
note:  the times listed to beat the egg whites are going to vary a great deal...depending on the temperature of the whites, the temperature of your kitchen, etc.....just keep an eye on them and watch for the descriptions given (good luck....this is where I usually botch the entire thing)
Place 6 heaping spoonfuls on each baking sheet. Then use the back of the spoon to shape out a little well on the top of each meringue pile (For these ones the sides of the meringues were almost an inch high...but you can make them thinner and flatter and take a few minutes off the baking time - I also like them all a bit imperfect but you can smooth them out and perfect this to your liking) Bake for 1 1/2 hours - meringues should look dry and firm and shiny. Then turn the oven off and leave them in there for another couple hours to slowly cool (yes - this part of the process takes forever)  Once cool you can store these in an airtight container for several days and just use whenever you need.

FOOD 143

Whatever fruit you have will be great. I picked up fresh peaches and strawberries at the farmers market the day prior so that is what I used. I think the ratio of fruit to sugar is about 1 cup fruit=1 teaspoon sugar. But this is up to you. You might like it sweeter, or no sugar at all.  After cutting up the fruit, gently mix in the sugar (or not) then let the bowl sit for a bit until there is some juice in the bottom.
I prefer the homemade because it is not as sweet. But of course the family LOVES Cool Whip. Use whichever is handy. For the homemade - 1 cup very cold Heavy Whipping Cream + 1 tablespoon sugar (taste it at this point - you might want to add a little more sugar) Whip until thick and shiny and firm peaks. Keep chilled until ready to use.
note:  I usually use regular granulated sugar. I have heard many only use powdered sugar. Use whichever you prefer.
Place meringue shell on a small plate. Cover the top with whipped cream and make a little dent for the fruit. Add fruit and serve.

FOOD 141

Friday, September 10, 2010

Spinach Frittata

Copy of FOOD 098
The best thing about a Frittata? I can throw whatever vegetables or leftover meats I have into a little dish, toss in some beaten eggs, cheese, bake it, then call it a Frittata! Easy, filling and very little mess. You can pre-cook the spinach and onions or not (I did saute them together in the above photo) But it will be delicious either way. This recipe is perfect for two servings - serve with a lovely salad and dinner is done.
6 eggs
2 cups and an extra handful baby spinach
1/2 cup Gruyere cheese (sharp white cheddar also very yummy)
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped ham (or whatever meat you have - or skip this ingredient all together)
1/4 cup milk (I always have 2% in the house so that is what I used)
salt and pepper
Oven to 400
If you want to cook the spinach and onions first - in a small skillet heat a tablespoon of olive oil - add onions and cook until softened (about 3 minutes) add spinach and cook just until wilted. Season with salt and pepper, mix - then leave it all in the pan.
Whisk together the eggs, cheese, milk, a little salt (for me this is 2 turns of the salt grinder) and a pinch of pepper. Add spinach mixture to egg mixture. Mix well then divide evenly between 2 oven safe bowls or medium sized ramekins. Can add a bit more grated cheese to top.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until puffed and golden brown on top

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fresh Peach Dumplings

FOOD 094
These fresh peaches were fantastic all by themselves! I figured they could only get better with sugar and pastry right? The inside mix looked like I was making a crisp, and apparently tasted great since my daughter was trying to eat it by the spoonful! The second time I made this I learned the trick was to get it all assembled faster then she could eat it.
A little bit of work (although I cheated again and used store bought puff pastry) but definitely worth the effort. Make sure the peaches are very firm. The mix can be easily doubled, made ahead of time and refrigerated for a couple of days. This way half the work is done and ready for you to make a few whenever needed. Serve with vanilla ice cream. Yummy!
By the way, the photo makes this dumpling look gigantic! It's not. Maybe 3x4 base after baking. Perfect single serving.
2 sheets puff pastry - thawed but very cold
4 large peaches
1 egg beaten with a splash of water
juice from 2 lemons
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup sugar
additional 1/4 cup sugar for sprinkling on top - set aside (and you do not have to use all of it)
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup butter - chilled
handful of very finely ground walnuts (I usually do this in the Cuisinart)
Oven to 375
Juice the two lemons in large bowl and set aside
Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil - you will need to blanch the whole peaches. While waiting for water to boil combine the cinnamon, nutmeg, 1/3 cup sugar, brown sugar, flour and nuts. With a pastry blender mix in the cold butter until it looks like chunky sand (sorry - terrible description I know)
Roll out the chilled puff pastry on a lightly floured work surface to about 1/8 inch thickness. It needs to be about a 16x16 square. You will need to cut 4 large squares from each sheet. Place pieces on parchment lined baking sheet and put back in the refrigerator till ready to fill.
Hopefully the water is boiling now. Drop the WHOLE peaches into the boiling water for 15 seconds. Remove and peel - the skins should slide right off. Halve the peaches, remove pits and put in lemon juice then into the cinnamon mix.
Grab your baking sheet. Place a spoonful of cinnamon mix in the center of each piece of pastry, then a peach half (cut side down) then sprinkle more mix on top - I do a sort of assembly line with the pastry sheets and peaches to make sure I evenly distribute and use all the mix. Paint the edges of the pastry with the remaining lemon juice. Start folding up your dumpling - one corner to the top of the peach - then next corner - etc...I also use the lemon juice to kind of seal up the folded edges. Dumplings back to parchment lined baking sheet. Paint them well with the beaten egg/water mix. Sprinkle all over with sugar. Prick a few holes around the top to let steam escape. Bake for 30 minutes or until pastry is browned and crispy. Let cool 10 - 15 minutes before serving (don't forget the ice cream)

FOOD 095

Monday, September 6, 2010

Fresh Lemon Cake

FOOD 091
I think the scent of fresh lemons is one of my favorites. Whether baking, adding to fresh pasta or even in soap, it is always lovely. This cake has a lot of steps - I seem to need and use every measuring cup I own - but is worth it in the end. Tart and sweet all at the same time. But not heavy and overpowering with lemon taste. Always a great aroma in the kitchen and always a hit at whatever party it attends.


2 sticks butter (room temperature)
2 cups sugar for the cake
3/4 cup sugar for syrup
4 large eggs (room temperature)
1/4 cup grated lemon zest (5 to 8 lemons - save these - you will need the juice)
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice for the cake
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice for the syrup
3/4 cup buttermilk (room temperature)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Oven to 350

Prepare the baking pans - 2 - 9inch rounds if you have(or 1 - 9inch round and 1 9inch square which is what I have) Grease and flour well or use a non-stick spray
Break the eggs into a measuring cup (or some other cup like container) Set aside. Zest and juice the lemons according to needed measurements. Pour the buttermilk into another measuring cup then add 1/4 cup lemon juice and vanilla - stir and set aside. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Cream the butter and the 2 cups sugar in the electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until white and fluffy - maybe 5 minutes on medium speed.  Add the eggs one at a time.  Add the lemon zest. Stop and scrape the sides of the mixer bowl with a rubber spatula and scrape the zest off the paddle. Mix another 30 seconds then turn mixer to low and add flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately. Mix just until incorporated. Divide evenly between the pans and bake 40 minutes - check with a toothpick or cake tester - bake additional time as needed. Mine are usually done at 40 minutes but I know my oven runs a bit hot.

Cook 3/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup lemon juice over low heat stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved.

When the cakes are done cool for 10 minutes, cover with a plate then flip over. Cake should fall right out. I usually flip the cake again so the 'pretty' side is on the top (you can use another plate or like me, just use my left hand covered with an oven mitt then slide it back onto the original plate - and yes - there were several disasters the first few times - I learned the 10 minute cooling time is crucial)
Spoon lemon sugar syrup over cakes then allow to cool
Can keep covered with saran wrap at room temperature. Do not refrigerate.

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Friday, September 3, 2010

Roasted Beet Salad w/Orange Juice reduction dressing

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The bounty of the Farmers Markets! I try to always find bunches of fresh beets, butter leaf lettuce (the family favorite) yummy cheeses and whatever else looks pretty and shiny in the early morning light. This salad can be a bit time consuming to prepare because of roasting and washing and slicing and watching orange juice boil...but worth it! Once the beets and dressing are ready there will be plenty for several salads and assembly will be quick going forward.


1 bunch fresh beets (see note below) *
1 head butter leaf lettuce (arugula and spinach good also)
a little goat cheese (or whatever mild flavor cheese you prefer)
olive oil
Orange Juice Reduction Dressing (recipe follows)

OJ Dressing:   
Pour 4 cups of orange juice into a medium/large sized saucepan (save yourself the time and purchase the orange juice at your local grocery) Bring to a boil at medium high setting then leave it alone. It needs to boil down to about 1 cup of liquid - this part takes FOREVER! When ready it will be rather dark.                   FOOD 054
Don't worry - after a little soaking and light scrubbing the pot looks good as new.                                      
Turn off heat. Using a fine mesh sieve, strain liquid into a small saucepan - add the juice from 1/2 fresh lemon (save the other half for later) add 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Back to stove on medium high heat - bring liquid to boil and let reduce until "light syrup" consistency (you should have about a half cup of liquid). Turn off heat. Strain again into a bowl or measuring cup big enough to add olive oil and work with a whisk. Let cool for a few minutes. Add 1/2 a cup of good olive oil - the juice from the other half of the  lemon - salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. Taste. Dressing should be tart - but if too strong for you add more olive oil. Salt and pepper if needed. Let cool completely.
I now pour this into a canning jar with those nifty seals and lids. That way when I need to dress the salad I can just give it all a good shaking then drizzle on my salad.

* HOW I PREPARE FRESH BEETS                                                                                                    
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They look like this when I get them. Lovely aren't they?  Wash and dry. Cut off leafy parts and stems. Completely cover a baking pan - or baking sheet - in foil. Place beets in - drizzle with olive oil - sprinkle with bit of salt - completely cover entire pan with beets in foil - roast in 350 oven for hour to hour and a half depending on size of beets. These were about the size of baseballs - I roasted them for an hour and twenty minutes. Out of oven - leave covered and let cool about half hour. Peel and set aside until ready to use.                                              
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Slice or cube the beets when you are ready. Cover and refrigerate leftover.

If you did all this in the same afternoon you have probably ordered a pizza by now!  If not, grab a big bowl, add washed and dried lettuce (I prefer Butter leaf for this) add sliced beets, drizzle with OJ dressing, sprinkle with goat cheese then sit down and relax and eat!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Fried eggs and rice

FOOD 052 simple and quick (and probably a little silly for a food blog) dishes go - this is one of my favorites. Maybe because I love eggs. Maybe because my mom used to make it for me after school. Most likely because the smell of it all together takes me back to childhood and being in my mothers kitchen. 
Now I make it for my daughter which makes me love it even more.

quick and you go...

You will need:

hot cooked rice
2 or 3 eggs (I like 3 :  2 to mix into the rice - 1 for on top)
vegetable oil
toasted sesame seeds
soy sauce (low sodium or regular depending on what you prefer)


Make sure skillet is hot - medium high.  Add vegetable oil (2 to 3 turns around the pan).  Add 1 or 2 eggs. Let fry for couple minutes until edges are brown and crispy, then turn the heat down until yolk is cooked to your liking. Meanwhile assemble rice, sesame seeds and soy sauce in your favorite bowl.  When egg(s) are ready remove from pan and add to rice mixture. Turn heat back up on stove. Fry last egg. While waiting for your last egg sort of chop and mix the rice mixture - add more soy sauce if needed. Cover with last fried egg.