Saturday, February 26, 2011

Baked Sunday Mornings: Devil's Food Cake with Angel Frosting

Fluffy Angel Frosting on the Dark Chocolate Devil's Food Cake
This morning began with the Dark Levil and ended with a Light Angel, and together they were both  divine!

By using my William-Sonoma gold cake pans I need only a little butter to prep the pans...and they fell out perfectly.

While the cake cooled I made the frosting.  These egg whites are whipped only to soft peaks.
Two weeks ago, for Valentine’s Day,  I baked a to-die-for triple chocolate, triple layer cake that almost transported me to heaven, but this week’s Baked Explorations' Devil’s Food Cake with Angel Frosting just might truly be the chocolate cake to-live-for as, this morning,  I found heaven on earth!

Yesterday my schedule was interrupted as I took one of my very sweet but very sick granddaughters home with me for some special attention.  My Frolicking Night Owl daughter has had a hard week with her 3 kiddies who have all been sick with the flu.  My precious little Penguin has hardly eaten all week, and has become, in her words, “Thin and frail and with no energy to walk any more.”  Break my heart!  So leaving my Night Owl to really be a night owl tending to her youngest two, I took my Penguin home with me and tried my best to feed her something every waking hour.  But when one has a fever, earaches, fever blisters in her mouth, and just does not feel good at all, this eating project is quite an undertaking.
Raspberry Syrup Gave the Angel Frosting a Pretty Pink Tint

This morning, after a mouse-size breakfast and a page of homework, she fell asleep for two hours.  Not wanting to be very far away from her I decided to bake the cake.  And what a good decision that was!  Kitchen work cheers my mood and creates something wonderful for everyone else in the house every time.Since my goal remained to entice my Penguin to eat...even sugary goodies (for an energy boost, of course...and this cake has lots of vitamin chocolate) I left out the coffee and substituted raspberry flavored hot water...I love chocolate and raspberry flavors together these days...and I used the raspberry syrup again instead of vanilla in the frosting.  The syrup colored the frosting a pretty princess pink.  I also added some tiny chocolate curls around the rim of the cake just for added fun.  (The raspberry syrup I used was an Italian soda/coffee flavoring.)

 When Penguin rose from her morning nap I told her I had a surprise.  You should have seen her eyes when she spotted the cake with the fluffy pink angel frosting.  WOW!  And I explained to her that it was her job to cut the cake and to be my taster.  Well, that created some instant enthusiasm.  She pronounced the cake to be delicious and very YUM!  And then she cut a big slice to take home to her mom because she just knew that Night Owl has had no baking time this week...maybe she’ll get a break and get it done this weekend...we’ll see.

As I tasted the cake I found it to be wonderfully moist with a tender crumb...and, honestly, the frosting is fabulous.  The recipe notes that the angel frosting is best when served within 4 hours...and immediately is the very best.  It has now gone past the 4 hour mark and the frosting remains delish.  (Note from the next day...the frosting is still amazing and it is still "best.")

Penguin's Slice that we Took To Mom
Thanks to Matt and Renato my little sweetheart Penguin is on her way to recovery.  Their recipe is definitely a keeper!  (I'm making this cake again this weekend for Honey's 1st Birthday...every child needs their own Chocolate Cake for their 1st Birthday Photos!!!)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

French Friday with Dorie: Short Ribs in Red Wine and Port

I utterly and entirely love every holiday!  We decorate, make too much food, and anticipate these regular reasons for great family times.  We count birthdays, anniversaries, gotcha days, special achievements, and “real holidays” as our holidays to celebrate.  Almost every week or two finds a celebrated holiday at our house.  Sometimes we just make up holidays when needed.

This week we enjoyed President’s Day, and even though owning our own business dictates that we must work even on these special days, with a little planning we enjoyed another family time as we honored leaders of our country while feasting on FFwD’s Short Ribs.  With just a little planning our holidays come together with specialness.  The timing of the ribs recipe was perfect as they can be cooked to perfection in 2 sessions, making way for work, readying the house, baking desserts, and all the other things that must get done.

The desert was blessed, over the weekend, with a gentle rain which yielded on Monday to fresh air, azure skies, green lawns, and an invigorating sweetness in our arid valley.   These kinds of days charge my batteries and get the creative juices flowing.   Since I choose not to have alcohol in my house, I had to re-invent this ribs recipe that calls for both red wine and port as significant ingredients.

The ribs are best cooked by braising which is a pot-roasting method used for tougher cuts of meats.  The meat is first browned and then cooked in a liquid in a covered container, as we say, “Slow and Low” for an extended period of time.  By “pot roasting” inexpensive cuts of meat, one can create a fabulously flavorful  meal resulting in meats that are fork tender, at only a fraction of the cost of the better cuts of meat.

The ribs, which can be beef or pork, (the recipe calls for beef, but we chose pork ribs for our re-created recipe...they looked meatier and fresher at the market) were first seared at a high temperature and were then placed in a Dutch oven with our liquid creation.  We used crushed tomatoes, which replaced the acid in the wine, to break down these tougher cuts of meat resulting in a great flavor and tender texture.  After braising, the liquid was used to make a sauce that is exceptional on mashed potatoes, as suggested by Dorie, or rice, used in our meal.

First I seared all the ribs, and then they were added to my tomato based liquid.  To jazz up this liquid I added diced onion, minced ginger and garlic, diced red pepper, brown sugar, salt, pepper, and from my trees, I added orange and tangerine juices for more acid and also for a fresh taste.

I then placed my covered pot into a 325^ oven where the ribs braised for 3 hours.  The pot was removed from the oven, cooled, and then the ribs were removed from the tomato mixture.  The ribs and “mixture"  were  refrigerated separately.  This way all the fat comes to the top and can be discarded and I can complete my ribs in a second session.  This also works well for my busy schedule.

This BBQ/braising method of cooking reminds Hubby of a favorite dish from his 2 years in Singapore...char siu.  It is the same cut of meat, cooked in a similar fashion, a few different spices and red colorings are used, and the meat results in a delicious flavor and texture.

I’m including my BBQ/Braising sauce recipe for a daughter who  loves it! she can just copy it from this post.

1 gallon crushed tomatoes
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 Tablespoon minced ginger
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
freshly ground pepper and salt to taste (about 1 Tablespoon salt)
½ Cup brown sugar
1 cup fresh squeezed orange/tangerine juices

After searing 10 pounds of  ribs on both sides, I put them into a large Dutch oven and smothered them with the above ingredients.  I started with the oven at 400^ for 30 minutes and then reduced the temperature to 325^ for 3 hours.



(At this point the ribs are cooked and can be eaten, however I braised them a second time, in the finished sauce which added more flavor and the meat literally all fell off the bones...juicy and delicious!)

Then I took the ribs out of the oven and refrigerated them separately from the sauce.  The next day I removed the fat that had accumulated at the top, and placed the ribs back into the Dutch oven and into a 300^ oven while I prepared the sauce. 

 I pureed the sauce (which now has the juices from cooking the meat)  with an immersion blender and then added:

1 (additional) Cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon chili powder
3 Tablespoons prepared mustard
1 Tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon cornstarch

Note:  depending on one's taste, hot sauce or spices could be added, or other veges/spices per personal preference.

The sauce simmered slowly for 1 hour.

About ½ this sauce was poured over the pre-cooked ribs and reheated.  I kept the pot cooking all afternoon until dinner.  When we opened the pot, the meat was falling off the bones, all the flavors had come together and it was wonderful!

The other ½ of the sauce was heated and used to pour over the ribs which were piled onto plates of rice making a mouth-watering main course for our meal.

          NOT A PRETTY PICTURE, BUT THIS MEAT-FALLING-OFF-THE-BONES IS MIGHTY GOOD!   (Right out of the pot, before additional sauce added)
Like some who need gluten-free, and some watch out for extra sugar or calories, we get creative and adjust for any alcohol additions.  Most recipes can be easily adjusted, but this ribs recipe needed a total redo for my family.  We did well and I was proud to serve this splendid dish.  I am excited to see how our meal compares to all or yours!

Happy Presidents’ Day to you all!!!

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Pancetta Green Beans
Dorie Greenspan wrote, “This simple dish is made special with the addition of a little sauteed pancetta.  It adds a speck of saltiness, another texture, and elements of elegance and surprise.”

With that in mind I went shopping.  It was my day to have almost 1 year old Honey for a few hours; I get to keep her every Wednesday, and since she loves to shop, eat, and talk to me while I cook, it is fun for her to be with me in the kitchen...maybe she senses that I am happy in the kitchen too.

I read through the recipe and also learned about pancetta on the internet.  It is similar to a slab of uncut bacon, but is cured with different spices or herbs and it is typically dried.  I remember using it in our Italian dishes and in ways similar to this recipe when we lived in New York, but did not remember seeing pancetta here.

I was reminded of living in Syracuse, NY for 8 years,  and dying for a good taco.  I know things have changed a little since we moved from there 23 years ago, but real Mexican foods and even good ingredients for home cooking did not exist in Syracuse at that time.

At one point, I was so excited to discover a highly recommended fast food taco/Mexican food restaurant.  (Supposedly it was like Taco Time or Del Taco or Taco Bell here...YUM, well, personally I like them all better than McDonalds....I know, it’s still fast food.)

We planned a family lunch outing, went to get our tacos, and I remember the order taker asking if I wanted mild, medium, or hot sauce.  Well, I love hot sauce.  I am a western USA girl and had grown up on Mexican cuisine.  But the man talked me out of hot, saying it was really too hot and overpowered all the other good flavors; medium would be hot enough and so I followed his recommendation.

We got our order, sat down in our booth to eat,  and I was drooling.  I do make great homemade Mexican foods, but it is just a treat to go out for a lot of crunchy tacos.  Well, immediate disappointment to the max!  First, the medium sauce had no kick, and how could it?  It was not salsa, not hot sauce, not anything Mexican at was Italian spaghetti sauce poured over my tacos...GROSS!!!  And the meat was seasoned with Italian herbs.  And the cooks were not Mexicans but were Italians.  What did I expect?  We were in an Italian neighborhood.  They loved their version of tacos, but they were not tacos!  And they had the wrong kind of cheese.  The whole restaurant was wrong!

It is the opposite here.  There is a plethora of great Mexican foods, eateries, and could eat Mexican foods everyday for a year and never have the same dish twice.  So much to choose from and so good.  But, when we moved here, we searched hard to find a good pizza.  Finally, we have 2 great pizzerias close to home where we can eat exceptional pizza and other Italian foods, and there are a few other stellar Italian restaurants that have entered the Phoenix Valley.   But...there are no close by Italian markets.  I asked my local favorite pizza guys where they get their good stuff...they ship it in from New York City or from Italy...they can’t find it here either.

But I went out to try.  Pancetta.  Well, Sams club is only 1.5 miles from home so Honey and I tried there first.  The recently remodeled store  has brought in exceptional cheeses from around the world, and has added a great deli selection with wonderful meats and other items.  It was worth a try.  But, no, they do not have it.  They have a few other Italian specialty meats, but not pancetta.  I purchased 2 pounds of fresh green beans from their cooler, shipped in from somewhere in the southern hemisphere  where they are  growing gardens while we still have winter, and we continued our pancetta hunt.  I drove to a couple of specialty, high end food stores, and, no, pancetta was not could be special ordered, but was not in stock.

What to do?  We purchased some expensive, good quality bacon...not the same, but we wanted to cook, and it would just have to do.  But we will be on the lookout for pancetta and will re-cook this recipe when we make our find.  We just might have to place a special order...or maybe I can find it on the internet...I’m finding lots of interesting ingredients there, and after entering my credit card number,  they just appear magically at my door in about a week...nice! I’ll talk to my Frolicking Night Owl daughter and see what she finds?  Maybe she will have better luck.
Honey Tasted Everything!  And Wore Some Of  It Too.
The beans do not make a meal, so Honey talked to me and tasted everything while we roasted chicken, made a fresh salad, tore off a pieces of fresh baguette bread, and sliced our favorite chocolate cake.  I told everyone who stopped by for our tasty meal that the beans were the center attraction and that our dinner was built around the beans.  They were a hit!

We had finely chopped and sauteed our bacon, blanched and chilled the beans, drained the fat from the bacon, sauteed the beans in a little butter, added the crispy bacon and seasoned the dish...and there it was; Pancetta Green Beans.  (And we added, just for fun, some of the spices to our sauteeing bacon that would be normally found in pancetta such as nutmeg,) And Dorie was correct.  The beans were special.  They had great flavor, texture, and they were definitely elegant.  Everyone wanted another helping.

I had to move in fast to get a photo before all the beans were eaten...only a small amount remained for my photo.  And that is good...glad everyone enjoyed them.  And with Valentine’s desserts and candies still in the house, it was a great idea to make a healthy vegetable for this week’s cooking experience.
Note: I should have read the P&Q where some of you made good suggestions of where to find pancetta...I could have gone to Trader Joe’s.  Oh well, just gives me a good excuse to make them again!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

My Frolicking Night Owl daughter, blogger, cooking friend, mother of three of my grandchildren, etc...has awarded me my first blogging award.  It is quite an honor, but, honestly, it made me laugh...and laughing is good!  Helps me digest all that Valentine's Day chocolate we baked yesterday.  You can check our her blog at, and believe me, it is a MUCH better blog than mine.  (I swiped the award image from her blog...don't know where she got it, but it looks good!  And, it looks official.)

Actually, I started my blog as a way to become a part of FFwD, a cooking/blogging group which encourages me to work my way through Dorie Greenspan's French cooking book.  And now I have added Baked  Explorations recipes with an additional group....I enjoy the goodies and I love what the Baked guys are doing.  But most of all, I enjoy the other bloggers.  Love to see what they are doing, appreciate learning tips from them, and totally love their positive attitudes and friendly ways.  I have new cyber friends in every corner of the globe and this is very exciting to me.

Unlike my Night Owl daughter and many of the other bloggers, I am not a photographer...just a point and shooter, but my pics give a good idea of our current cooking/baking experiences, and they create a type of record for me to use as a reference for the next time I bake these recipes...and they give my 7 kids a type of tutorial should they also want to cook the same recipes.  And I'm not clever with Photo Shop, etc...I have no time now for such fun things.  I had thought that at this point in my life things would settle down and I would have time for new hobbies and old interests, but, HA!  Life just gets busier and more hectic, and I don't have my kids around to help me get my jobs completed; they come wanting to play, to eat, and to do things with me...and that is just fine; I love them to be here as much as possible.

But I do have an additional "secret blog" that I keep as a type of journal where I post additional projects (many of them also kitchen related), photos, memories, and thoughts that I don't want to share with the entire world, or, at this point, with anyone.  I do plan to share it in the future, but it is more personal, so I'm not ready for sharing will need editing!

Because I was given a Stylish Blogger Award, I get to do four fun things...

First, thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award. So, thanks goes to Frolicking Night Owl and I also CONGRATULATE her on receiving the award herself, and in her case, it is well deserved.

Second, share seven things about myself.

Well, that's easy!  I have 7 wonderful children and that really is the best part of me!  But I will think up 7 additional things as this award seems to be a way to get to know people out there in cyber space on a more personal level.

#1:  I eat chocolate every day.  I am addicted.  I am eating a slice of rich, moist, triple layer, dark chocolate cake as I write this post.  Tomorrow I will "decorate" the chocolate cheesecake which is ripening in the fridge so that we can indulge in more of this high-i- antioxidant food of the gods...and never fear, President's Day is coming up so cherry-chocolate something will be the order of the day!

#2:  Baking is an outlet for me; a de-stresser.  For our business, I am "privileged" to get to do all the paperwork, solve problems, etc.  This means that I am a bill payer, taxes doer, payroll person, errand girl, the make-phone-calls-to-work-out-problems  specialist ...things that are paperwork related, short, I get all the jobs that don't make money, that don't produce, that aren't fun, that don't build relationships, that are lonely, and that no one else wants.  And I'm not usually "down at the office" but in my "home office" where I would much rather be distracted by zillions of much more wonderful things to do.  So...baking becomes a great outlet for me.  And goodies bring all the kids home, they build friendships, and they provide bribes for things I want or need...and, as a bonus, Hubby is happy when there is yummy food in the house.

#3:  I love the Arizona heat.  I hate (I know, that is a strong word) winter, snow, cold, ice...and that includes ice cream in the winter.  I like to do yard work and I dislike scrubbing bathrooms.  I'd rather mow the lawn than vacuum the floors.  I enjoy planting flowers, getting my hands in the dirt, and picking peppers from my garden.  I have bell pepper plants that are 7 or 8 years old.  I can't grow as many things as I would like, but I am a wiz at peppers. Before AZ we lived, for 8 long years, in upstate NY where I was frozen for at least 11/12ths of every year.  Nice people, beautiful countryside, lush gardens, great blueberries, but...  When temps get over 100^ I am at my best...just re-charges my batteries to be all nice and warm!

#4: I was a music person in my past life (my kids say "back in the day").  I used to be a pretty good piano player; entered contests, won awards, and taught lessons for many years.  We survived during our first years of marriage with that additional income.  But when we moved to AZ and child #5 was on the way, I gave up teaching other people and became more focused on my kids who required more attention.  I also played the violin, guitar, and a few other instruments,  but the violin now lives in its case, the guitar is with my son...and that's how life goes.  I always planned to get back to the piano when my kids were grown, but now they are all on their own, and I want to play my music, do some arranging, and maybe write a few tunes, but between office work, volunteer work, church, and family there is just no time...I really need 48 hour days.  This return to music is still in my future; it is still a goal.

#5:  After raising our 5 children, we needed more!  So, we decided to adopt 2 older girls from a Moldovan orphanage.  Moldova used to be part of the old USSR.  It is the smallest and poorest of all the Eastern European countries.  We had never heard of Moldova until we decided to adopt kids.  We adopted two unrelated girls who shared a room with about 20 other girls...wish we could have adopted them all.  Our neighbors have adopted a few and we continue to help some of the others who have been left behind.  In fact, I just worked on one of those girls today.  She is 21, speaks and writes English fairly well, but has nothing and no one, and she needs a family, even if we are 1/2 way around the world and only a pretend family and most likely will never meet.  These young orphan girls really need help.  Even though Moldova is small, it is #1 in the world for child and women trafficking...slave trade for work and sex.  The government even promotes it....makes money off selling women and girls.  There is no hope for these older girls who get kicked out of the orphanages at age 16, unless someone outside Moldova helps them...but most people offering "help" are offering the wrong kind of "help."

#6:  I have 5 grandchildren; 2 boys and 3 girls.  They are the light of my life and I wish I could have them all with me every day.  4 live close and I get to see them often; 1 lives in northeastern Idaho.  I look forward to seeing him soon, but it is not often enough.  4 of my children are married.  I have hopes for many more grandchildren.

#7:   I don't sleep; never have.  As a babe I drove my mother nuts.  Because of me, she would need a daily nap, but I never did.  At 6 months I figured out how to exit the crib, at 8 months I was running, and I have been on the move ever since.  I rarely go to bed until after 2 or 3 a.m. and then I struggle to keep still.  I may sleep for an hour, but then I'm up wandering around the house.  Sometimes I raid the fridge or the cookie jar, I get a drink, I read a story...I guess I do all the things that kids do...and then I try to lay down again, but I just watch old movies until it is time to get up.  I doze a bit if the movie is boring, so I try to put on the boring ones.  Sometimes I watch them over and over and over trying to rest, but when I get up in the morning after an hour or two, I am always refreshed, energetic, and I am healthy and happy, and I just don't need the sleep.  In the night I blog, read, plan, and I prepare my Adult Sunday School lessons...this year I am teaching the New Testament and for this Sunday, I am teaching about the miracles of Jesus.  And...I always bake treats and make handouts for my class of about 75 adults...they love it!  But poor Hubby.  He knows there is something the matter with me...thinks I need to get fixed.  People who are sleepers just don't understand us non-sleepers.  I used to drive my mother nuts, but now poor Hubby has to put up with my no-sleep self...I do try hard to be really quiet, and sometimes that is the worst part of the whole not sleeping thing...I have so many noisy things to do!

Third, I am supposed to award 15 recently discovered great bloggers. This is probably the best part about getting the award; sharing it with others! It’s my pleasure to give a “Stylish Blogger Award” to the following amazing blogs (in no particular order):   I have been on so many wonderful blogs  over the past few months and enjoy chatting with cyber friends, it is always hard to choose.  I appreciate how others who are "out there" are willing to share their talents and discoveries and knowledge.  I know it takes time to blog and talent to blog well...maybe some of the following bloggers will pass the baton on to some of you!

Fourth, contact these bloggers and tell them about the award!

Well, I typed all this up and thought about new blog sites that I have enjoyed finding over the past couple of months or wonderful new friends I have met and I think you would like to meet them too.  So...I'll have to contact them all later which will take some time... I'll just have to wait for a paperwork break.

Later, Miss Kris

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Baked Sunday Mornings: Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies (without the red food really they are just chocolate whoopie pies)
One of my daughters spent a year and a half in Taiwan doing volunteer service work and as she readied to return home she asked if there was any special small item we would like her to bring home.  Since Hubby had spent 2 years in Singapore he was excited to request a favorite  Asian food item that he has missed – moon pies, fresh from a Chinese bakery.

Well, the Chinese are not well known for their bakeries or their sweet foods, but one baked item they make well is moon pies...a round cakey, cookie that resembles the color and shape of a full moon which is spread with a creamy filling and topped with a second cookie making a sandwich. If they were chocoholics like us, the color and flavor would not be golden, but dark brown, and we might suggest that they call them Whoopie pies.

Since my grandchildren were coming this afternoon, I thought I would bake chocolate whoopie pies for them to share.  Our Baked Explorations recipe for this week calls for red food color to create Red Velvet Whoopie Pies, but I could not bring myself to add the red.

My First Taste--YUM!
Red Velvet Cake is trendy right now and seems to be a favorite of many.  In fact, we had a house guest today who firmly stated that Red Velvet Cake is her favorite..  I searched the internet to find out if the food color adds anything to the flavor of the cake or to the science of the cake, and learned from many sites that there is no effect on anything except the color, which at this time of year, is lovely for Valentine’s Day festivities.

So I chose to leave it out.

I checked the Chocolate Whoopie Pies recipe from the same book, and it is similar, but the fillings suggested are different.  If I had more time today, I would have made a marshmallow filling and might have tried the peanut butter suggestion.  For today, our filling was vanilla-cream cheese-buttercream and chocolate buttercream.  We rolled the cookies in chopped walnuts and Valentine sprinkles which delighted the kiddies.

The suggested baking time is from 10 to 20 minutes...quite a variation.  I started baking for 15 minutes (I doubled the recipe so I had several trays to experiment with), and that was too long.  The cookies were OK but quite crispy, and today I did not want them to be like Oreos, but more like the Chinese moon pies which are soft and tender.  10 minutes was enough.

Filled with Chocolate or Cream Cheese Fillings and Rolled in Walnuts or Heart Sprinkles
The cookies cool quickly when out of the oven and can be filled and sandwiched in a short time.  Since the kiddies arrived right as I was getting the first batch out of the oven, I did not take the time to make perfect cookies or to fill them carefully for a nice photo...just to keep them ready as they were quickly eaten.

When I make this recipe again...soon...I will take the time to make a marshmallow filling, I will keep the baking time to 10 minutes, I will use a uniform scoop of batter (today I experimented with 3 different whoopie pie molded pans which did not work as well as I would have liked), and I may try additional cookie dough flavors just for fun.

This recipe was easy, yummy (one granddaughter said, “Chocolate cookie + chocolate filling = YUM!), fun and enjoyed by all the 11 people at my house this afternoon.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

FFwD: Orange-Almond Tart



This week’s Orange-Almond Tart is one of my favorites so far with the FFwD group.  (You know this group has become a part of my life when my 8 year old granddaughter interviews me to find out  if I’m on track with FfwD.. She wants to know if I’m prepared for my next “assignment”, and she asks if my postings are up to date. And she wants to know if this is a “dessert week.”  And she is well trained...she also wants to know if this is a chocolate “dessert week”.)

This recipe is:

1.)   Perfect for this season in AZ
 It is citrus season.  I have about 20 citrus trees in my back yard; two are navel orange trees.

2.)   I tried something new
We have been brainwashed to know that one does not cook with or juice navel oranges.  They are meatier and drier than the juice oranges, and about 20 minutes after peeling they become a bit bitter...our juice is not as good if they have been added to the mix.  I have taught classes for the Town of Gilbert, AZ  and for Church on how to use our local citrus, and I have used info from ASU and the county extension service who all  confirm that cooking with navel oranges is not a good idea.  BUT THE ORANGES IN THIS TART WERE WONDERFUL!!!  Sweet, tender, and perfect!  (And even though dried out, they are still juicy.)

3.)  I found  relief!
Last week was the coldest in decades.  When the northern and eastern states were bombarded with blizzards and frigid temperatures, we wimpy Arizonans had to endure a hard frost...hard enough to do major damage to our citrus crop.  I carefully covered up, with many layers of blankets, sheets, and towels, my young, small trees, and just said a prayer for the big ones.  A few mornings ago they all looked terrible, but after tending, watering, talking to them, and praying more for them, they are all looking much, much better today.

When the fruit freezes, it becomes dry and often rots.  The juice oranges have no just retracts back into the tree to nourish the branches and  to save the tree from freezing.  Or it just is damaged, the fruit eventually turns black and falls off.  Normally. when there is no hard frost,  we have fruit well into July.  If you have ever peeled a lovely orange just to find it dry and yucky on the inside, it was probably frost bitten before it was harvested.

My relief came when I dared to use some of our fruit, and it is juicy, sweet, and seems to be OK.  There are even new blossoms that seem to be fine.  We did lose most of our garden, some shrubs, etc...but all our citrus has survived!
I decided to double the recipe.  This tart has several steps: Make the  art crust dough,  mix the almond cream, refrigerate these two steps, partially bake the crust, prepare the oranges ahead so they can dry and not be too juicy, put the tart together so that it is beautiful, and then bake the tart.  And then...glaze the tart and dust with confectioners’ sugar.  It makes a bit of a mess and with all the steps and clean-up, it is no trouble to make an extra tart. for the office and one for home.  YUM!

I’m not an alcohol user, so I just used a teaspoon of rum flavoring, and I added two teaspoons of water to the sweet tart dough, which, probably due to dry AZ, was just too dry  without a tiny bit more moisture.  With these exceptions the recipe was followed with wonderful results.  
Joe, down at Liberty Market in downtown Gilbert near our office, puts out some great desserts using family recipes.  Hubby complimented me when he said that my tart would be a hit down at Joe’s market.  Hubby ate 3 slices and then went to the gym to work it off.  I’ll bet that when he gets home, he will down another piece.  And, of course, I have to keep up with him!





It’s always nice to find recipes that use what I have on hand.  It was a joy to step outside into my little piece of heaven (72^ today) where I could pick fresh fruit for this recipe.  And the other ingredients are always in my pantry...nothing unusual. 
It was also nice to try something new and to learn to use my oranges in a new way.  I am excited to see all of your tarts.  I wish I could have had you all over to pick fresh oranges for this assignment.  You are such a positive and fun group of people; I’m sure we would have had a good time.
Hope you all have a Valentine Sweetheart to share this wonderful tart.  I will definitely try this recipe again and maybe use pears or some other tasty fruit.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

French Friday with Dorie: Basque Potato Tortilla

My grand kiddies have choir practice every Thursday afternoon close to my neighborhood which means that I get to be the waiting place.  First my four year old has her turn, and then my 8 year old... and my 3 year old gets to stay and play with me the whole time while Mother chauffeurs the older two back and forth.  My brain was fried due to  office paperwork so I was ready to cook and make ready for time with my kiddies.

The Basque Potato Tortilla was perfect for them.  A healthy snack with kid friendly ingredients.  Their Frolicking Night Owl mother had made the dish the night before so they knew all about it when they arrived.  But theirs had been more glorious with mushrooms and cheese, and they had made breakfast for dinner adding special French toast to go with their French tortilla.

But I had a surprise waiting for them...a tea party.  I got out the special  miniature dishes, put on a table cloth, and got into the chocolate mood.  The chocolate mood is a natural, just happens every day.  I was thinking ahead for Super Bowl food when I made 2 gallons of triple chocolate pudding .   (I’ll be filling football shaped eclairs), and, of course, my kiddies were very willing tasters.  And we wanted hot chocolate for our tea cups, and spoons dipped in white chocolate and crushed peppermint sticks for stirring.  We added little sandwiches and there we were...entertainment that lasted for a couple hours.  It’s good we had the tortilla or we would have all flown away to sugar heaven.  You just need that “real” food to keep you grounded.

Daddy and my hubby appeared after their work and when I turned around the entire tortilla had vanished!  So, I guess that means that this recipe is good and they’ll want it again.

The tortilla is easy to make, the ingredients are normal for my pantry, and everything went well until I transferred the tortilla to a serving platter...a little of the bottom stuck to the pan.  But, that was my best part.  That crispy bottom still in the pan was all mine!  I did not share one piece.  It was right up there with the chocolate.  Instead of sliding the tortilla out of the pan, I tried just dumping it (because the bottom was just not coming loose), which worked OK and no one mentioned that it looked flawed...I just crisped up some bacon to garnish the platter.  Next time I will add just a bit more olive oil to the pan bottom , especially since I used more than double the called for potatoes for this just sounded really good to me to add more potatoes to all those eggs, and they were.


Next time I’ll add some veges...some asparagus or bell peppers would be good and I do love mushrooms with potatoes...and cheese.  And some salsa for the top would also be really the kiddies added some ketchup.  

Can’t wait to see what everyone else did.  Always a pleasure to see all your blogs!