Sunday, February 27, 2011

Lemon Curd filled cookies

I have an abundance of these.
So I have been doing a ton of this...
and this...
resulting in a bajillion jars of this...

Sort of like "Sunshine in a Jar". So delicious. These have made great gifts and cookies and tarts and mousses and on and on and on. Everyone has loved all of it. When I am done with my current lemon obsession I will freeze the juice and zest in anticipation of my next lemon infused cooking spree. But until then, here is the first of a few recipes I will post using the lemon curd.

These cookies are wonderful. It is the same cookie recipe I posted for the Linzer Heart Cookies - but instead of nutella or strawberry jam I used the following lemon curd recipe. This version has almost the same consistency as pudding. I found several recipes were too soft for what I wanted to fill my cookies and tarts - so of course, I had to make many adjustments until I reached exactly what I felt was the perfect consistency and texture.

zest of 2/3 lemons (depending how tart you like it)
juice from 4 lemons (needs to be almost 1 cup)
4 teaspoons cornstarch
2 sticks butter
1 1/2 cups sugar (i prefer to use the superfine Bakers sugar - but the regular works as well)
4 large eggs

Combine the butter, lemon juice and cornstarch in a heavy pan and cook until the butter is melted and the mixture is softly bubbling - whisking the entire  time to ensure the cornstarch gets mixed in well. Should take about ten minutes. Turn off the heat and add the zest. Give it a stir and let rest. 
In a separate bowl blend the eggs and sugar thoroughly then add a small amount of the hot liquid to temper the egg mixture. 
Then slowly stream in the hot liquid to the egg mixture - whisking the entire time.

HINT: I put the bowl on a towel on my cutting board while doing this part otherwise I usually find myself chasing the bowl all over the kitchen counter - awkward to whisk and pour at the same time - the towel helps a great deal.

Return the entire mixture to the heavy pan and cook on medium high heat for about ten more minutes - the mixture needs to be almost to a boil - stir constantly (yes - it gets a bit tiresome) Then reduce the heat to low and let cook and thicken for a few more minutes. Mixture should be smooth and shiny.
Strain into an airtight container and chill for several hours or overnight before using to fill a delicious pastry.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

If you love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches - you will love this! 
It was one of those moments when I see a photo in a magazine and think it looks really good - then check for what crazy ingredients might be needed - in this case I had everything so why not try it?
The whole thing came together and once cooled tasted like a warm peanut butter cookie with a touch of sweetness from the grape jam (use whatever flavor is your favorite) Delicious! Try this!

the original recipe is in the current issue of bon appetit magazine


8x8x2 metal baking pan
large sheet of aluminum foil
nonstick vegetable oil spray 
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup peanut butter (original recipe calls for smooth - but i used chunky)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 stick butter - at room temperature
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup jelly or jam (i ended up only using little more than 1/2 cup)
2/3 cup chopped salted roasted peanuts (i skipped this since i used chunky peanut butter)


oven to 350

Line the square baking pan with the aluminum foil leaving about a 2 inch overhang all around the edge. Spray with the non-stick spray and set aside. Using an electric mixer beat the peanut butter, sugar,and butter until smooth. Add egg and vanilla - mix well. Turn mixer to low and add the flour in 1/2 cup increments - then add the baking powder. Beat just until all is blended.

Transfer half the dough to the prepared pan and then put the rest in the freezer for about ten minutes (long enough for me to wash the dishes) the dough currently in the pan needs to be evenly pressed all around - including the corners. Then spread the jelly to evenly cover the top of this first layer of dough. Then grab the rest of the dough from the freezer and drop little pieces all over the top of the jelly - use all of the remaining dough.
If you are doing the 2/3 cup peanuts step - sprinkle them over the top now.

Pan into the oven 25 - 30 minutes. Till top is golden brown.

Let cool completely in the pan on a rack before removing and trying to cut.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Chocolate Hazelnut meringue cookies

I made this cake
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Nine inch disks of rich meringue - morsels of chocolate and hazelnut in every bite - layered with homemade whipped cream and dark chocolate shavings. The combination of flavors was fantastic!

Then I tried to cut this cake
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Yes - that is the hand of my then 5 year old. As you can see slicing this cake was a bit of a challenge. After attempting to slice a second piece it looked like this

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Needless to say, I needed to make some adjustments.

I decided to make the cake into cookies and hope for the best. Maybe the cookies would be a bit more user friendly and still present as beautifully as the cake did (the cake no-one could touch)

 For the cookies YOU WILL NEED:

1 1/2 cups hazelnuts - toasted and chopped (do this part first and then set aside until ready to use)

6 large egg whites - at room temperature

dash of salt

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup mini chocolate chips (use the mini - do not use the regular size - it makes a difference)

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (around half a cup worked out fine)

3 cups heavy whipping cream

1/3 cup confectioners sugar

dark or bittersweet chocolate for shaving


In the bowl of a standing mixer (use the whisk attachment) beat the egg whites with a dash of salt until you get soft peaks - while waiting for this melt the 6 ounces of bittersweet chocolate then set aside - Slowly add the sugar into the egg white mixture until you get stiff peaks. Add the vanilla extract and give everything a quick mix again. Now fold in the hazelnuts that you already toasted and chopped and have let cool. Then pour the melted chocolate down a side of the bowl and carefully fold it into the egg white mixture.

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Give everything a light stir - just enough to get some pretty color going throughout the mix.

Do drops of about a tablespoon size of meringue mixture - enough to fill the cookie sheet since they do not spread very much

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Bake at 200 degrees for 1 1/2 hours. Then let cool in the oven for another hour or so. Remove from the oven and let sit for a few minutes.

In the meantime make the whipped cream and mix with dark chocolate shavings (this is the 3 cups of heavy whipping cream and a 1/3 cup of confectioners sugar)
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Serve the cookies with a small bowl of the cream on the side for dipping - maybe add some more chocolate to the top of the whipped cream (why not?)  Delicious.

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Food and Friends 1

My family and I are surrounded by wonderful friends and great cooks. What makes our friends especially wonderful? Their infinite patience with me while I am taking photo after photo after photo. Then sometimes holding in a particular position while I take more photos! Case in point...

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he was a really good sport.....

After that dinner may be served and everyone can dig in. Hopefully I am now eating and have put the camera down (hopefully)

This dinner was simple in preparation (I might be in trouble for this comment)

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but huge in flavor and perfect with the several bottles of wine we opened and the conversation that flowed the rest of the evening. 

The tri-tip was rubbed with a Creole seasoning and some added fresh black pepper then grilled to perfection.

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The tomato corn salsa dish was very difficult to not just stick my spoon in and eat all of it right there!
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Everyone else could have steak and tortillas. I was going to finish this bowl! Recipe? Follows:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup chopped shallots
2 cups garlic cloves, minced
2 cups fresh corn kernels
2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/4 cup fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add shallots and garlic, saute 1 minute. Add corn, saute 5 minutes or until corn is lightly browned. Add tomatoes, saute 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Place corn mixture in a medium bowl: cool to room temperature. Stir in basil and salt. THEN EAT ALL OF IT


There was also a guacamole dip and chips that I never got around to trying

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because of being completely distracted by the tomato corn thing.

Combine all of the above flavors with several glasses of this With DROEN 037

It was a fantastic evening.

Thank you Andrea and Dustin. Looking forward to many more dinners together.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Linzer Heart Cookies

Well it is Valentine's Day pretty soon. And my daughter's class was having a party so I of course had to make something festive and lovely right? Apparently, these are also known as my "kiss up to the teacher" cookies - according to several other moms. And in a heart shape who can resist?  

Very easy and pretty quick. Can also make the dough a day ahead and just let it come to room temperature before trying to roll it out. I got the cookie cutter from Michaels,default,pd.html?cgid=products&start=1  Was inexpensive (4.00 ! with huge pay off!)  And it has a very nifty little device for the heart cut out.
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Try this. Everyone will love.


3 sticks of butter - SOFTENED (dont worry - there are a lot of cookies)

1 cup sugar

1 egg (at room temperature)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 1/2 cups flour

dash of salt

your favorite jam or chocolate filling

confectioners sugar for dusting (traditional but optional)


oven to 350

In a small bowl lightly beat the egg with the vanilla - set aside. In an elextric mixer - mix together the butter and sugar until combined - add the vanilla egg mixture just till combined (stop a couple of times to scrape the sides of your bowl) Add a dash of salt - then turn the mixer down low and slowly add the flour in. Mix until the dough comes together - there will be pieces in the bottom that look like they are not getting mixed in - this is okay - you will mix them in by hand in a moment. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and get all the little loose pieces mixed in. Shape into 2 flat disks - wrap in saran and refrigerate for about a half hour. 

If you forget about the dough (like I did) Just let it sit on the counter for a little bit until it comes to room temperature. Trying to roll it out while it is cold will be tough (which I also did) Wait a few minutes.

Dust your workspace with flour again before rolling out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut out your shapes with the cute little cutters you just purchased! Place the cookies on a tray lined with parchment paper. Including the little baby pieces. They are yummy!

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Bake for about 12 minutes depending on your oven personality. Just until the edges begin to brown. Let cool completely then layer the bottom cookies only - on the FLAT side - with your favorite filling. I did some with Nutella and some with strawberry jam (figured the strawberry would be a universal favorite with the kids) You can dust the tops with confectioners sugar if desired (traditionally done)  - but I decided there was enough sugar already and what 24 kindergartners didn't know wasn't going to hurt them! They wouldn't miss it.
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IF you are taking these to a kindergarten Valentine's Day party you might want to wrap them in wax paper - 2 per package - seal the edges with some double stick tape - and deliver. All the parents will thank you for it (I'm not actually sure if any of the kids got a cookie! I think all the parents might have eaten them all)
VDD cookies

Monday, February 7, 2011

DO not call me a Cassoulet

Very honestly - I left the house the other day intent on making a somewhat traditional cassoulet (only 'somewhat' traditional because I knew there was going to be a lack of anything described as 'confit') I have a friend who made it a while back and it looked delicious so I thought I would give it a go - check out his stuff - it's excellent - a MUST read. 

Anyway,  here I go. I am looking for duck legs, a fantastic homemade sausage of some sort, and flageolet beans - or I was prepared to substitute dried cannellini beans and do the quick soak method (directions to follow)

After two stops, two receipts for things I 'might' need for some recipe soon, and my favorite Hostess snowballs (yes - these are the greatest food ever made)  I came home with chicken drumsticks, a sausage that said it was made with basil and garlic, and two bags of Great Northern White beans (???) By the way - while IN my local grocery, I had to use the phone to google 'substitutions for cannellini beans' - yes, I did - and was told to purchase Great Northern White beans - which, I did.

Okay, so obviously, I did not search as high and low as I probably could have. But I needed to start cooking so some slight adjustments were going to have to be made.

Have you ever googled "cassoulet"? This is a traditional French dish and one of the ultimate French comfort foods. I really wanted to try this. So I made what I could, with what I had. It took about 2 hours total prep time since I needed to wait for the beans to cook. Then almost 2 hours in the oven. But it was delicious - adjustments and all. Although I cannot call this a cassoulet, I will call it comfort food - hearty, warm and great with your favorite red wine.


2 bags of Great Northern White beans (or 2 bags dried Cannellini beans - good luck) 

there will be quite a bit leftover - I will hopefully have something to show for what I did with these - soon

8 chicken drumsticks

6-8 pieces italian sausage (hot or mild - whichever you prefer)

1/2 package bacon

3 carrots - chopped rather chunky

3 stalks of celery - also chopped rather chunky

1 sweet onion - chopped

5 garlic cloves - chopped fine

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 cans chopped canned tomatoes

a lot of chopped parsley (half now - half later)

2 teaspoons dried thyme

2 bay leaves

1 tablespon paprika (more if you like)

1 tablespoon cayenne papper (also more if you like)

3 tablespoons butter in the beginning

5 tablespoons melted butter for the end

(i gues you need 1 stick of butter - divided)



olive oil


FIRST the beans: The quick method thing - beans go into a large pot - fill with water about 2 or 3 inches above the top of the beans - cover - bring to a boil - let boil about 6/7 minutes - then turn off the heat but leave it covered for an hour. I left mine covered until I was ready to add them to my meat mixture (this is necessary if you did not let them soak overnight - which is the recommended method - but I obviously did not think this through that far in advance)

Oven to 400 degrees

In a large pot or a Dutch oven (preferably the Dutch Oven) heat the olive oil and 3 tablespoons of butter then brown the chicken legs - remove - brown the sausage - remove - then brown the bacon - NOT necessarily to the point of really crispy - you mostly want a lot of the fat rendered to flavor everything else that is going in the pot. When you think the bacon is about right toss in the carrots, celery, onions and garlic. FOOD 704

(there is really no point for this photo other than I thought it was pretty)

Cook all the vegetables with the bacon about 10 minutes. Then add the tomato paste - give everything a good stir to coat - then add the canned tomatoes - stir - add about a cup of chopped parsley, the thyme and the bay leaves - stir. Now start adding beans. I'm sorry I didnt get a photo of this part. On my stove I had the beans in one pot - and the 'cassoulet' going on in another pot - and just ladled beans from one pot to another. Start with 4 cups of the cooked beans. Add the chicken legs and sausages back in FOOD 708
- then add another two cups of beans. Salt and pepper then give everything a good stir (no - this will not be easy) Turn the heat to high and bring this to a boil. Add water until the liquid is about an inch from the top of your pot 

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- let come to a boil. FINALLY - cover and put in the oven for an hour and a half (yes - 1 1/2 hours) Check the pot halfway through to make sure there is still some liquid visible - if needed add another cup or two of water, stir, then leave it alone.

When out of the oven add the paprika and cayenne and taste to see if you need salt and pepper.

At this point I did do the bread crumb topping I read about in several recipes. It is 2 cups of bread crumbs mixed with 2 cloves of garlic and 1/4 cup chopped parsley. Cover the top of the soup/stew mix with the bread crumb mixture - drizzle with the remaining melted butter and put back it back in the oven until browned - about 12 minutes

I think I will leave this part out next time. It seemed to soak up all the liquid - and we like a bit of au jus.

When it is done, let it cool for several minutes while you are slicing a fantastic loaf of bread from Bella Bru Cafe  (on this occasion we had the potato rosemary loaf)  

Serve and dig in
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Friday, February 4, 2011

Beef Tips

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This is one of the family favorites. And one of mine because of how quickly it comes together. Yes - it does require the use of one of those strange packets of gravy powder mix. But sometimes that is necessary. 

The beef I used here was one of those packages of "lean stew meat" - already cubed (I was in a hurry)  It is also excellent with any sort of roast meat (you usually have to cut these up yourself and I didn't feel like it tonight) I did also try it once with a cut up tri-tip. DO NOT do this! The meat became very tough and dinner that night was very, very quiet. Also, I usually use regular soy sauce for this (instead of the low sodium soy sauce) Then wait to salt and pepper until right before I serve. The regular soy is pretty salty so not much salt is needed.

After you saute the onions and brown the meat - add all the liquids and seasonings - cover for 2 hours and done. Try this - the family will love it.


vegtable oil
1 red onion - chopped
2 pounds cubed beef
2 cups water
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons garlic powder

LATER you will need:

1 package dry brown gravy mix
1 cup water


Heat a large skillet (or dutch oven) and add a couple turns of the vegetable oil. Saute the onions about 5 minutes then add the cubed beef. FOOD 663
Cook on high until most all the meat is browned on all sides. Then add the water, soy sauce, worcestershire and garlic powder. Give it all a good stir and bring it to a boil. Then cover - turn the heat down to low and let simmer for 2 hours.

When the 2 hours are up - mix the gravy packet into 1 cup of hot water - turn the heat back up to high and add the gravy mixture to the meat mixture - stir until slightly thickened - taste to see if you need to add more salt or pepper - then serve over rice or mashed potatoes.