Saturday, December 29, 2012

Baked Sunday Mornings: Classic Shortbread with Fleur de Sel

 There are times that a dream about baking butter cookies for their simple pleasures.  Hubby is from Pennsylvania and craves sand tarts, I enjoy baking rolling, cutting, and decorating sugar cookies made with lots of butter with my grandkiddies, and sometimes I bake chocolate butter cookies.  I love shortbread cookies with a layer of caramel similar to the soft caramel we recently made and maybe covered in chocolate, and sometimes I add finely chopped nuts...these buttery cookies are so versatile and truly say Christmas.

3 of my grandchildren have invited Hubby and I to a talent show at their house New Year’s evening.  They sing, play instruments, have art work, and love to perform and show off.  Their Frolicking Night Owl mom is providing a hot chocolate bar with lots of wonderful mix-ins (including homemade marshmallows, lots of candies, and real whipped cream), and I will bring something to dunk into that delicious, hot, sipping dark chocolate, possibly my shortbread cookies.

These cookies are, however, not really made for dunking.  They have a tender, flaky crumb and are a bit fragile.  I dipped several in dark chocolate and added sprinkles, crushed candy canes, or broken-up whoppers (in honor of all the malt we use in Baked recipes).  But I had to be very careful; I admit to breaking a few.  (We needed something to taste.)

Today’s Classic Shortbread cookies are beautiful, fill the house with their buttery aroma, and taste delicious, but they would not be a good choice to mail as many shortbread cookies are.

These cookies are similar to a recipe I usually bake for my shortbreads, however today’s recipe adds egg yolk and rice flour which is different.  My recipe has no egg and calls for a little corn starch.  I enjoy these cookies with cirtus zests, but chose to go more plain today (I did add vanilla) hoping for a cookie that would pair well with the hot chocolate bar.

Anyway, what a great way to begin the new year!  Time with family, continuing the eating season, and relaxing before getting into my busiest office time of year (year end paperwork and then taxes...UCK!).

Can’t wait to see what you have done with your cookies...I enjoy all your ideas.

Happy New Year to each of you.  Hope you all have a terrific New Year!!!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Baked Sunday Mornings: Holiday Spice Cake

Pure Snow, Sleigh Bells, Glittering Parties, Douglas Firs, and Hot Chocolate--That's what this Cake is Imbued With!!!
Holiday Spice Cake

It’s almost Christmas.  The Baked Holiday Spice Cake with Eggnog Buttercream is perfect for this special time of year.  I did not know exactly what to expect for this photo in the book, and was a happily surprised by how delightful this cake is!  This spice cake is not typical.  Not like a more heavy flavored, traditional spice cake.  The flavors are well defined yet light, as is this cake.

And I was so happy with the buttercream frosting.  Our last episode with a similar buttercream frosting did not excite me.  It was hot here in AZ and with all the butter the recipe did not hold up well.  But today the temps are only in the mid 60's (about 72 inside) and the buttercream is perfect.  I just set the cake outside for use tomorrow at my daughter’s birthday party.  It will be well refrigerated tonight.  The frosting did not require any refrigeration, but came together exactly as it should, and with the flavor additions, it is heavenly.   It truly does “push all the romantic holiday buttons” as the Baked Boys suggest.  For sure, I’ll make this cake and this frosting again!!!

Well, the big day is almost here.  Wishing all of you a Very Merry Christmas and a Wonderful New Year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tuesdays with Julia and Dorie: Finnish Pulla

I have a few of my own food groups which are necessary for my mental and physical health:

Number 1: Dark Chocolate
Number 2: Caramel
Number 3: Cookies, in general
Number 4: Good Freshly baked breads

I enjoy other foods, but these daily are necessities. 

A great bread completes meals, holds other ingredients such as in a sandwich form, and even greater breads can be the meal.

I enjoyed making today’s dough, shaping and decorating the wreath, smelling the aroma, and now I’m enjoying the great texture and flavor of this Finnish Pulla which is a cardamom flavored bread, that because of shape and flavoring is quickly linked with Christmas.

Being the gift-giving time of year, I made two batches of dough, divided each in half, making one for us to try and 3 for friends.  I used pizza pans, as suggested in the recipe, for baking, and a half-size is a lovely size for those at home today.

A few minutes ago...
My baking was almost done when a friend, Louise,  came with gift in hand and I was certainly happy to be pulling hot bread from my oven, and even better, Christmas, wreath shaped, bread.   Louise, shouted, “Oh, you are baking Swedish bread, I love Swedish bread!”

And interestingly, #1 son returned from a month in Sweden two days ago, so he also is very interested in this bread.  Well, there went three loaves, just like that.  One for us, one for Louise, and one for #1 son.  I’ll find someone special for my last wreath.

I guess Louise and #1 are correct...even though this is Finnish bread, I’m thinking it is also Swedish?  I’m sure they know more than I in this area. 

Except for when l bite into a little pearl of sugar, this Pulla is not a sweet bread, in my opinion, although #2 Son  tasted it right out of the oven and he thinks it is sweet.  I’m thinking cinnamon rolls and those, of course, are much more sweet.

The flavors are very good, yet more subtle that I imagined...again I’m comparing to a cinnamon roll type wreath.  I will serve what remains of our wreath for dinner as I’m sure it will make a good  meal type bread rather than a dessert bread.  I’m guessing that those who enjoy a hot cup of coffee would love to sit down with a chunk of this wreath and with their hot drink this pairing would make a perfect break.  I’ll go for some sipping hot chocolate and with my wreath portion, I’ll take a comforting moment before tackling my next Christmas baking project.

Can’t wait to see your posts and get more great ideas for you...and I always do.
Hope you all have a great week.  Merry Christmas to all.  Happy Baking!


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Baked Sunday Mornings: Soft Candy Caramels


Tis the season for butter and sugar and more butter and sugar.  And all of it creates a jolly joy at my house.  As I make the caramels and type up this post I am interrupted often by the ringing doorbell signaling happy neighbors and friends bringing more sugar and butter for us to try...and so far, it’s all good! 

I made a triple batch of today’s Soft Candy Caramels which have been one of the dreamed about candies for my treat platters.  They did not disappoint!

The texture, consistency, and flavor are all really good, and with a dipping of chocolate and a sprinkling of snowflake like fleur de sel they are even better!!!
I do have two comments for “fixes” I need to make.  First of all, next time I’ll try all cream and no condensed milk...I can taste that canned milk in my final product, and I prefer only cream.  I don’t know if there is a reason for the canned milk...I’ll have to do a search; possibly the extra sugar is needed.  And, Second, I was expecting more flavor from the fleur de sel which is pricy and special so I want to experience it.  This special salt disappeared in this candy.  I was expecting something like the trendy salted caramel flavor.  So I fixed these issues with a chocolate dip and more salt as a garnish.  Perfection. 

These caramels dip well...I’m not a great chocolatier or dipper...but once set and packaged in little candy papers, these caramels look wonderful.

Well, I have to say Merry Christmas and good-bye for now...the bell is ringing again.  Enjoy!

Friday, December 14, 2012

French Friday's With Dorie: Chicken, Apples, and Cream a la Normande

I’m certainly glad I did not miss today’s chicken recipe.  It is, as #2 son describes, fit for a king.  I call it a superb one-pan meal that is good enough for company.

#2 son is back at home with us and we had just finished putting up the Christmas tree.  I’d had a huge lunch and was not very hungry, but I knew that #2 son would be starved after his long day and then helping me with the tree; it was now almost 8 pm.  Hubby is working out of town for a couple of days and I planned to take a cooking break which was not working out for my hungry son.  I mentioned to him that I had all the ingredients for the next FFwD cooking challenge, and if he was up for French food, I’d cook this recipe and get a little ahead...who knows what may happen on any day of busy December.  He was up for anything even though I thought it would most likely take me 1 to 1 ½ hours before we could eat and it was already well past dinnertime.

The recipe is simple using ingredients I already had in my pantry and fridge and the cooking time is short.  I was surprised when this meal was ready in 30 minutes, yet it is special and delicious.  We loved the apples, mushrooms, and onions with the creamy sauce which made this chicken so delicious. 

I served this chicken dish atop mashed potatoes...I continue to use up all those potatoes Hubby brought home at Thanksgiving.  It is about 85^ every day here in AZ, so all the zillions of pounds he thought I would need are out in the garage suffering a quick death.  The creamy sauce was wonderful with our mashed potatoes.  (Well, that was a few days ago.  I don't think the temp reached 70^ today; having a little rain.)

#2 Son was amazed that I could make such a super meal in such a short time.  He loves to cook and knows that chopping, making a delicious sauce, getting the chicken done, etc. takes time.  He was very interested in the process and wants to cook this recipe himself next time.  Ok with me!  Glad he enjoyed it so much.

I would not hesitate to use this recipe as a main course for a holiday meal.  It is different from our usual fare, is delicious, and would go well with many other foods.

Hope you are all enjoying the holidays!!!  Wishing our best for you all!!!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Baked Sunday Mornings: Spicy Brownies

 What size would you like? 
Look at that nice, clean cut...these are perfect brownies!

Growing up in the West, I’ve always loved Mexican foods with flavorful spices and lots of color, but their pastries and baked goodies are lacking.  They have less sugar and, in general, less spice.  They are beautiful, but are often dry and always lack “something,” in my opinion.  For example: I purchased some beautiful cinnamon rolls not to long ago at the Mexican market.  The cinnamon part was great, however, there was no sugar and no butter in that wound up dough bun.  Not what I expected.  And the frosting was something like powdered sugar, shortening, with a little water.  Bleahhhhh!

But the marriage of good  American brownies and a Southwestern flare in the spices department is a wonderful combination.  I’ve always loved spicy brownies, however, I’ve not tried ancho chile powder, only regular chile powder in the past.  And, I’ve not added ginger to my brownies, so this is a new flavor combination for me.

Not too long ago, my daughter, Emmie Lou Who, spent 18 months in Taiwan and while there she introduced her new friends to American baking; specifically brownies which were her specialty.  The Taiwan cuisine uses stovetop cooking and no ovens.  Thus, no baked goods.  They have steamed buns, but few sweets.  There are bakeries, but no brownies.  Emmie was asked to bring brownies wherever she went...the church kitchen had an oven that she was allowed to use.  For fun, she held brownie and cookie baking classes often. Emmie made lots of friends!

Another daughter, Frolicking Night Owl, is our family brownie specialist.  I quit baking brownies as hers are always so much better...and the last  two times I’ve baked them, I’ve not liked crusty on top and too gooey in the middle.  I like to try new recipes, but my past two trials have failed miserably.  My owl bakes them in so many ways and so often that I have taken brownie baking out of my repertoire.  

But for today, I was excited to bake this recipe, as these spicy brownies have a huge appeal to me, and I need a treat for later when my family all comes for Sunday dinner.  The Owl’s family will be here, and I need to be competitive...not winning, but at least have edible brownies that they will enjoy.

When I pulled the brownies from the oven, #2 Son was in the kitchen and said, “What’s that?”  Everyone here knows I don’t do brownies.  I told him about the spices within, and he was quite delighted.  Hard to let them cool before cutting in!  They did look beautiful.  A lovely shiny top, but not that crusty top so loved by many bakers who seem to love anything that says “brownie” in the recipe title.  I did not want cakey brownies, but also did not want them to be too gooey.

The verdict: These are great brownies!  Everyone loves them.  The spicy is not really very spicy, but contributes subtly to the whole flavor of this brownie, creating a phenomenal overall taste.

I’m back in the brownie baking business at my house...well I could be.  The Baked Boys have really good brownie recipes...I should quit trying out new recipes and stick with theirs.  But, I won’t tell the Owl I baked these great brownies or she might quit baking them for me so often.

These spicy brownies are good enough to go on my Christmas cookie platters.  I’m fussy about what gets on these platters.  These brownies are winners!

I love this December time of year.  I’m sure that with these brownies you are all staying on the “Nice List!”  Have a wonderful week!!!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

French Fridays with Dorie: Creamy Cauliflower Soup Sans Cream

Cauliflower has always been a favorite vegetable of mine.  This is a beautiful, sturdy vegetable with a mild flavor, blending well with many foods.  It is at this time of year in AZ that cauliflower flourishes in our gardens.   I’ve been tending my neighbor’s garden while they are away for a month, and they have beautiful cauliflower growing abundantly.

I don’t think to use cauliflower in soups as it quickly overcooks, making it perfect as an easily pureed vegetable for today's challenge.  This soup is light and lovely and can be garnished with many toppings.  Because I enjoy defined flavors, I chose to top mine with crumbled crispy bacon, shaved Parmesan cheese, and fresh parsley. 

I’m interested to see your presentations.  Personally, I was happy to have a recipe that was simple and healthy for this very busy week of sugar and more sugar.

Hope you all are enjoying this wonderful time of year!!!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Tuesdays with Julia and Dorie: Gingerbread Baby Cakes

I love this gingerbread recipe!  With a little warm lemon sauce and a daub of whipped cream, today’s challenge gingerbread is easily the best I’ve ever had.  With lots of ginger spice, chopped fresh ginger, pepper, and other wonderful ingredients this cake is better than I imagined.

When I first read through the recipe, and when I read through a few Ps and Qs, I imagined a very spicy, as in hot spicy, cake that would be an adult dessert.  Then I got out pans the recommended size for baby cakes and they were much larger than what I would term “baby” size, so my mental image was not on target.

I baked the gingerbread as shown in the recipe, but baked it in a pretty bundt pan, putting aside the small pans.  Then remembering that my little kiddies who were coming for dinner would not like a hot-spicy cake, I baked a second more traditional gingerbread recipe in what I  think of as  “baby” size with a seasonal flare, small gingerbread men shapes.


My kiddies loved my small gingerbread men cakelets with lemon sauce and whipped cream.  

Then I cut into today’s cake and served it to all the adults.  Rave reviews!  Again this recipe was served with warm lemon sauce and whipped cream and it was heaven.  My imagined taste for this cake was very wrong.  It was definitely more spicy than the cakelets I served to the kiddies, however I would say there was more wonderful flavor, not a hot or overdone spiciness.   I will definitely bake this gingerbread cake again.
Hope you all enjoyed this gingerbread as much as we did.  Merry Christmas and Happy Baking to everyone.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Baked Sunday Mornings: The No-Bake Peanut Butter Cookie

I certainly appreciated this easy, yummy no-bake CHOCOLATE peanut butter cookie for my busy December schedule.  This is a wonderful treat that I’m adding to my cookie platters.  I rarely purchase cookies at the market or the bakery...I’m particular about my cookies; I like them super fresh, with no shortening or strange oils and I love baking them, usually, several times each week.  Grandma’s house should always have fresh cookies on hand at all times!  But, I’ll admit, that when I see these cookies on the bakery shelf, I can’t resist.  I buy them every time.  Iresistable!   Good childhood memories.  It’s hard to mess them up.  They are a perfect project  to “bake” with my little kiddies.

And...they are healthy, right?  With that high protein peanut butter and all those old fashioned oats they must have some good food value.

The only addition I made to this recipe was I added 2 cups coconut.  I wanted my scooped out mounts not to spread, and the coconut is, in my opinion, a great tasting addition that stiffens the dough a little and my mounds were kept in tact.

Love this recipe and enjoyed making these yummy cookies.

This is the best cookie time of year...hope you are all enjoying it as much as I am!

Friday, November 30, 2012

French Fridays with Dorie: Beef Cheek Daube with Carrots and Elbow Macaroni

I've been away for about 6 months and am so happy to be back...trying to adjust back to my previous schedule which included cooking with friends and blogging.  Missed you all and all your great ideas and suggestions!

I admit that when I read about cooking beef cheeks for dinner I was ready to skip another recipe.  I probably could have found them...the Mexican store meat department sells everything...nothing wasted.  But, I struggle to walk through their meat cases where they often have cow or pig's whole heads and other scary me nightmares.  But as my adopted Russian daughter once told me, Americans are the only ones in the world who don't use I guess Beef cheeks are just ordinary fare for some...and might even be tasty, but........

So I purchased a small chuck roast, as suggested by Dorie, and I must say today's challenge recipe makes a delicious roast.  I cut the roast into  pieces about 2" X 3" which I figured would fit well onto my plated dish.  And the other change I made was to use up some potatoes.

Hubby thought he was helping when at Thanksgiving he brought home several bags of cheap potatoes...after I had done all the shopping and had our potatoes.  They were only 79 cents for a 20 pound bag so he thought I'd need a few.  And they are rather gross potatoes.  Not uniform in size and a little gnarly looking.  So I use them at every opportunity in some kind of disguise.  For today I cooked and seasoned and mashed up a bunch for the bottom of our bowls.  Then I topped the potatoes with the braised roast chunks and then added the carrot-pasta mixture.  It is delicious and hearty, and a nice change from all the turkey leftover cooking.

I've had Mexican  dishes where chocolate is used as a seasoning and I love these foods, however, I've never added chocolate to my "daubes."  This chocolate addition is a great idea.  We love it!  It adds a rich and sweet flavor to this dish.

I'm excited to see what you all have done.  Happy Holidays to everyone.  I can't believe that December begins tomorrow.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Baked Sunday Mornings: Pumpkin Almond Cake with Almond Butter Frosting

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends!  Such a cherished time of year to focus on family and friends.  Great foods, such as today’s cake, make our holidays even more special as we celebrate this season.

I’ve disappeared for about 6 months; have not even opened my blog where I record what I  bake and cook with friends, and I’ve missed out on enjoying all  your tips and creativity as well as your friendships....and I'm sure, lots of wonderful food.  So many things have happened over the past few months, some hard and some wonderful; all very time consuming.  Out of necessity, I've had to put aside some of my hobbies even though these kinds of hobbies benefit those I care about.

I’ll write more about my adventures over the past 6 months later, but I’m happy to be back and am excited to see what you all are doing.

I purchased the new Baked Elements cookbook a couple of months ago and actually tagged  the Pumpkin Almond Cake as the book's recipe to bake first.  Due to ongoing events, I’d not been able to get to this recipe.  Even though it fits into fall baking perfectly, I had no time to try a new recipe, even though this one is quite routine.  I actually opened our Baked Sunday Morning site in error while working on another project, but was delighted to find this recipe for today’s assignment.   Even though I’ve been in the kitchen for days preparing and cleaning up our Thanksgiving feast, I couldn’t resist this recipe that had earlier caught my eye.  I have family and extras coming for Sunday dinner and am ready for a new dessert.

This Pumpkin Almond Cake with Almond Butter Frosting is truly a great cake.  I doubled the recipe to feed my expected crowd, turned it into a huge layer cake, and it is delicious and beautiful and a little different from our usual fare.  My frosting is not as smooth as in the given photo because I used Trader Joe’s Chunky Almond Butter...I would do this again.  We loved the crunch along with the moist, dense pumpkin-almond cake.  Even though the toasted almonds garnishing the top give some good texture, we liked the little chunks best.  Hubby commented on all the layers of flavors in this recipe; he loves them.
My large slice is cut only1/3 across this large 10" cake (meaning someone cutting from the opposite side could end up with a slice almost 7" deep...this is a really big cake!).  The recipe calls for a 9" cake pan, however, my 10" pans were filled just past the top when baked.  I would have had extra batter if 9" pans were used.

This recipe has a perfect combination of spices, pumpkin, and almonds, creating a pleasing dessert that is almost healthy.  There are no overpowering flavors, just an enjoyable blend of many flavors that are especially craved at this time of year.

For sure, this Pumpkin Almond Cake with Almond Butter Frosting will become an Autumn staple in our house.  I’m excited to see what you all are doing and to have the chance to say “Hi,” and also to wish you all a wonderful Holiday Season!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tuesdays with Julia and Dorie: Naan Bread

Four days each week the kiddies come for a swim lesson; they are all now officially fish.  While the kiddies swam, I finished the Naan after watching a couple of u-tube episodes of Naan being made both in India and in the Middle East.

This is a very simple flat bread.  The one made in India used baking powder instead of yeast, both added oil, and the Middle East added egg.  This is to be a quickly baked soft, flat bread using a very hot oven.  It is pricked so that it will keep flat, not puffing up like pita bread.

Traditionally this is topped with herbs, garlic, spices, butter or oil.  Ours was totally kid friendly with a Mexican cheese blend, or with whipped honey-peanut butter.   The videos I watched used fresh cilantro, which they called coriander, or minced garlic; both with butter spread on the bread first.  Also breads were baked plain, with no toppings and some of these were spread with butter after baking to keep them very soft.  They were then placed in a keeping box, which looked like my cast iron Dutch ovens.

I baked my breads in two batches (and have enough dough in the fridge for another).  The first batch was left in to cook longer and I liked it better.  It was more chewey (due to a high gluten bread flour), and the second which cooked just till the cheese melted, was very soft.

The dough is made like any other bread dough and rises quickly here in AZ...ready for use in only 30 minutes.  My pricking tool is from Home Depot paint department...a cheap scraper of some kind.





 The bread was consumed quickly, all the kiddies enjoy this type of bread, and they are ready to turn the rest into little pizzas.  Maybe tonight.


 Hope you are all  have a wonderful week!  Lunches like today are what makes life lots of fun and we look forward to more projects like this.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Baked Sunday Mornings: Strawberry Jello Salad with Pretzel Crust

Strawberry jello salad, or any jello, does not fare well in our AZ summer heat, unless one enjoys drinking their salad.  I'm a day late with this post...forgot I planned ahead on this one which was actually made a few months ago, during cooler weather.

This post takes me back to Turkey's birthday.

Young children's birthdays are very special days filled with wonderful excitement and anticipation.  Turkey is my special baking buddy who loved being kidnapped for several hours of cupcake and cookie baking, giving his mom time to wrap a few gifts and to make an A+ Chocolate-Cake-Chocolate-Cheesecake Layered With Ganache And Frosted wIth  her A+ Favorite Bittersweet Chocolotte, Sour Cream Frosting...Decadent!

Turkey also helped "decorate" this Jell-o salad...I think he did a great job!

Of all my grandchildren, Turkey is my most enthusiastic baker.  He was by my side for hours with full attention.  He would not go with Papaw (Hubby) to Sonic to pick up the Wacky Kids Pack he ordered...he was not distracted by anything.  Even late into the night  he was quite busy baking.  He is creative, knows how to be a good helper, and is a great clean-up guy.  He mixes, decorates, sweeps, mops, vacuums, washes dishes, puts soap in the dishwasher, and is happy the entire time.  And he talks to me non-stop...good company.

For his birthday we all got together for an extended family and friends cookout.  The Baked boys Strawberry Jello Salad fit in perfectly.

I am not a fan of Jello which is odd since I grew up in Utah, the Jello capitol of the world...everybody loves Jello in Utah. Every event in Utah includes Jello.  My mom used to make it in some form every week and so did everyone else's mom.  And with such bright colors and such sweet slimy consistency it is kid friendly favorite.

On one occasion I remember making Jello with fruits all by myself at the age of 5.  I also remember spilling the entire bowl of sticky, colored, slimy gelatin filled with Mandarin oranges and fruit cocktail  as I carried it by myself to the fridge.  OOPS!  I hate to think about how sticky the kitchen floor must have been.

While my mother napped  I often did the cooking (Mother thought I was also napping) and then I remember getting the dish rag and cleaning up my mess:  floors, counters, dishes, me, all with the same dish rag  (Gross!)...looking back I probably made a bigger mess.  Well, Jello was the beginning of my cooking days, and Mother was encouraging even though she was always surprised by my creations which magically appeared after her nap.  I don't remember making many messes, but I'll bet I did.  And she never told me not to use the sharp knives or the stove.  She must have figured I'd learn by trial and error, and I did make my share of errors.

At the age of 5 I could boil water which was needed to dissolve the Jello (no microwaves back then) and I could get it all put together and ready for dinner by myself.  I was also good at the type of cheesecake that I made in a pie pan with a graham cracker crust and a filling made with cream cheese with sweetened condensed milk, a little lemon juice and vanilla and with no baking, it just set up in the fridge...well it usually set up.  I had to use my mom's Sunbeam mixer for this job...something I'd never let a 5 year old do.  

Back in the 50's and 60's the in thing was all the new box mixes and time saver pre-made baking Bisquick and cake mixes which I always considered to be gross ingredients for food.  Does anyone remember all the Bisquick pizza crust.  Horrible.  All the mothers made it especially when we invited our friends for dinner.  Such an embarrassment.    Well, Jello is in the same category.  To me, almost a non-food.  I don't remember ever making it for my own children.  I do remember making 4th of July jigglers for my grandkids but considered it to be in the real junk food.

So, for this challenge, I set out to make as good a strawberry jello as possible.  Next time I'll use a size smaller pan which will thicken the layers making them more visible and a little prettier.

I added double the sliced strawberries and that mentally justified this food as OK for dinner.  I also doubled the filling so that I could pipe half as a creamy topping.  I do like this topping as the cream remains whipped and keeps its shape but does not taste     strongly of the cream cheese...more like sweetened whipped cream that has been stabilized.


                                                                              TURKEY TURNS 4
I admit we all liked this Strawberry, pretzel crust, Jell-o salad and it fit into  Turkey's birthday celebration quite well....Jell-o continues to be good kid food.  Turkey and I had such a good time baking and making that I'll have to invent the next reason to bake with him soon.

I look forward to seeing all your Strawberry Jello Salads with the Pretzel Crust...and by the way, this crust is delish!   I might be a Jello convert with this recipe.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

French Fridays with Dorie: Lentil, Lemon, and Tuna Salad

 This week's salad has strong overtones of a recent Dorie cooking project also with lentils and fish: salmon.

This salad meal was healthy, but not exciting.   My grandkiddies came to swim and enjoyed a cookout which included a side of today's salad.  The opportunity was taken to introduce them, once again, to lentils with the bribe of chocolate truffle cookies if they ate their portions.

For patio dining, I turned this lentil-tuna salad into lettuce wraps which could be eaten by hand.  First we  portioned out pretty rounded amounts of lentils and then of tuna salad and added chopped veges.  Next, we tried layering these foods and found the easier method to look just as lovely.

To make the lentils a little more flavorful I added chopped onion and carrots.  The tuna was made into a tuna salad with mayo, sweet pickles, onion, lemon, and seasonings.  I'm sure the whole idea conforms to the given recipe well enough.

The chocolate truffle cookies were exciting, however, and did the trick.  Everyone cleaned their lentils and earned their cookies.

Yield: 40 using my smallest ice cream type scoop...about 1 Tablespoon of dough

First, line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

Beat together until thick ribbon stage:
2 large eggs
2 1/3 cups sugar
1 Tablespoon honey

Melt together in microwave and stir until smooth:
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
3 Tablespoons butter

2.75 oz almond flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon cocoa

Add the dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture and combine.

Stir 1/3 of the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture to lighten it.  Then gently fold the rest of the egg mixture into the chocolate until well combined, making sure to keep the mixture aerated.

Chill until firm, about 1 hour....REALLY FIRM!

Scoop out the dough and roll each dough ball in sugar, place on baking sheet and place in freezer.  When dough balls are frozen solid, bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Keep these cookies in the fridge especially in AZ...they love to be eaten cold.

If any cookies are left over...very doubtful...they keep well in an air tight container in the fridge for 2 weeks.   Nice to have on hand for rewards including for myself.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hubby makes a great vege dip that he shares with his friends every holiday season.  It began as an alternative to all the sweet treats going around the neighborhood, and it is an item that he can make really well without my input.  He uses a base of cream cheese and sour cream and adds minced onion, peppers, garlic, carrots, scallions, and other flavorful vegetables.  To that mixture he adds fresh herbs and seasonings.  This concoction ripens in the fridge for a day allowing all the flavors to come together.  Each year, several neighborhood young men who seem to know when Hubby is putting together his dip,  knock on our door requesting  their own LARGE container of this dip...not to be shared with their families.  I incorporated a couple of hubby’s seasoning ideas to make today’s cheese dip even more flavorful.

The Lyonaise Garlic  and Herb Cheese recipe that I used as a vege dip similar to Hubby’s was perfect for a hot summer day.   My neighbor, Bob, surprised me this morning with an armful of produce from his garden.  Sadly, it is his last picking of the season as the hot Summer temperatures have fried his plants.  He will grow his garden again beginning in the Fall...we are a little backwards from the rest of this country...most of you have a freeze, we have the roasting heat.

Early this morning I set out 2 cups of ricotta cheese in a mesh basket to drain.  Before dipping it out I poured off the liquid that had collected at the top of the container.  At that point, the cheese looked quite dry so I was surprised by all the liquid that had dripped out by the time I was ready to use it.    This neutral flavored ricotta cheese, suggested by Dorie as an alternative to her usual French cheese,  was the foundation for my dip. 

Instead of a shallot, I minced ½ a red onion, which I thought would impart a pretty color as well as savor.  Then I minced a clove of garlic,  splashed in the EVO, and added salt and pepper to taste.

From my garden I added chives, lemon tarragon, and the end of my’s now too hot for all but the most heat-hardy items.

Then I tasted the dip.  It was blah...nothing special, even with all the flavorful herbs and minced vegetables.  After resting for an hour, the herbs, garlic, and onion did not impart much exciting flavor.

That’s when I used Hubby’s additions of a Tablespoon or two of soy sauce, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, and a healthy pinch of cayenne pepper.  These additions did enhance the flavor without detracting from what I think this herb cheese is meant to be.  I later wished I had taken Hubby’s advice and also added minced red pepper which brings a sweetness and more flavor to this type of dish.  (Some of these additions added  more salt.  I might have easily added more “salt to taste” but I had previously added a good portion of salt and wanted something more.)

This herbed cheese can be thinned and used as a salad dressing, or it also goes well with breads or crackers.  I liked the idea of stuffing small tomatoes with this cheese and adding a drizzle of pesto sauce.  This idea sounds interesting to me and I plan to try it next time.  (I have 1/2 a container of Ricotta remaining to be used.)

This cheese is easy to put together and I can think of several uses, but it needs to be put with foods that are flavorful on their own and just need a condiment added.  For example: I think this cheese would be good spread onto large tortillas instead of commonly used cream cheese spread to begin a wrap.  With added thin sliced meats, cheeses, tomatoes, etc., this would come together in a good combination.  It would also be delicious used as an alternative to humus. Or instead of mayo on a BLT.  Or maybe with a stronger grated cheese added to the mix.  Or bacon.....

I look forward to seeing how you all used this cheese and to see if you made any good flavor additions.

Hope you all have a lovely Memorial weekend that includes good food and family along with honoring those who we appreciate and who we do not forget.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Baked Sunday Mornings: Peanut Butter and Banana Cream Pie


Today’s Peanut Butter and Banana Cream Pie is actually part II if my “chocolate” tart/pie baking adventure for my Frolicking Night Owl daughter’s chocolate party.  Part I was the FFwD Double Chocolate and Banana Tart posted 2 days ago.  With minor adjustments, both are fabulous “keeper” recipes.

To comply with being a part of a chocolate party, this pie was given a chocolate crust and melted bittersweet chocolate was swirled around the top.  Viola...this is now a Chocolate Peanut Butter and Banana Cream Pie.
The only other change was the chocolate covered peanuts that I could not add to the top...they melted before I got them was 106^.  Then I decided on chopped peanut butter cups as I had a fresh bag begging to be used and I thought they would complement this pie...but unfortunately they too were melted...totally.  So, in honor of the AZ heat, my garnish then became toffee covered peanuts, which do not melt. 

I was surprised that this custardy, peanut buttery, banana pie held up at an outdoor party...I was expecting it to droop and melt just like those peanut butter cups...but, surprise, it held up even in our heat.  Wonderful!
Comparing the two pies, this was my personal favorite.  I’m a sucker for good custard and when in company with all these great flavors and ingredients, this pie is a real winner.  Dorie’s ganache and banana tart, which also has many layers, is elegant and decadent, but there are no surprises.  It tastes just as I expected it should.  But this pie with the many layers and flavors was exceptional and surprising.

And the most important reason for me persoanlly to love this pie, is that even though I am not super excited by chocolate and peanut butter together...I must have eaten too many peanut butter cups as a kid...I did love the chocolate and peanut butter paired in this pie.  This will be a good pie to make in the future for my chocolate-peanut butter lovers, and I'm excited that I can love it too.  (I know, this pie does not really have chocolate as written in the recipe, but as of this week, it does for me.)

This Baked pie brought several great flavor layers together and it truly surprised me with all the wonderful  layers that worked so well together.  It was worth all the steps and all the dirty dishes.  I will do it all again soon and this time I will anticipate eating more of this pie sharing with a chocolate party!

I'm excited to see all your pies.  I'm in the mood to bake this one again tomorrow!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

French Friday with Dorie: Double Chocolate Banana Tart

My Frolicking Night Owl daughter had a Chocolate Party Tuesday evening, and it was better than fabulous.  Zillions of her friends and family came and everyone baked their favorite chocolate desserts or brought their favorite chocolate candies for all of us to try.  The Owl made her two favorite chocolate contributions and also provided a chocolate fountain with a great dipping selection. All the desserts were amazing and after two hours of eating chocolate goodies non-stop I had to go home, but I was well energized for a few late night hours of work.  As I was leaving, a whole new crowd of chocolate eaters were arriving.  I should have stayed and tried all their desserts too.  I decided I should have a chocolate party–very addicting!  With Evite these parties are a breeze to plan.   (I heard that some party attenders stayed until midnight...I think I missed out.)



Trading work hours for baking and chocolate eating hours was a great idea.  I spent the afternoon baking two different banana chocolate tarts/ for FFwD, and one for Baked Sunday Mornings.  I was happy to do my office work at night while on a sugar and chocolate high.  With all my energy, I’m sure my work quality was A+.

And, it was also fun to compare these two desserts.  I cheated on the Baked Explorations’ Peanut Butter and Banana Cream Pie, also giving it a chocolate crust and I added a drizzle of chocolate over the had to be chocolate, of course.  Both were really great crowd pleasing desserts.  For this post I will feature Dorie’s Double Chocolate and Banana Tart and on Sunday morning I’ll write about the “Baked” pie.

Dorie’s chocolate crust is perfect.  It mixed easily and after being refrigerated it rolled out nicely between two pieces of plastic mess.  It did crack just a little while baking and I wanted to seal those cracks before adding the caramely bananas to the tart I sealed the tart crust with ganache and put it in the freezer for 10 minutes.  It sealed perfectly...And more chocolate just makes it more better.

Next time for this tart,  I will make a better caramel for the bottom banana a good, sticky caramel sauce.  I’ve decided I’m not a big fan of the melted sugar caramel which, to me, has a little bitterness in the finished flavor.  And with a little lemon flavor from the lemoned bananas, it was not my favorite.  I know, a little lemon is often added to caramel sauce, however, not to my caramel sauce.   Hubby likes the melted sugar and pours  it over his frozen yogurt.  I guess I envisioned a different product.

The ganache filling was incredible.  Is there anything better?  The bananas were an enjoyed addition, but I found myself  dreaming about raspberries or other chocolate friendly my new find at Costco which are their dark chocolate-almond-cherry clusters–Oh my!  I was thinking about chopping them up and ditching the bananas.  Next time.  And I’m thinking about these clusters with the raspberries.

After this dessert was assembled, I drizzled melted bittersweet chocolate over the top...had to make it even more chocolaty for the party.  It was YUM!

I wondered how this chocolaty tart would hold up at an outdoor AZ summer party.  When my house is 82^ my chocolate begins to melt, and we keep our house at about 82-84^ in the summer.  That probably sounds too warm to many of you, however, this week we reached 106^ and that was my yard work day, out in the blue skies and sunshine, this week’s work took 6 hours.  So coming into a cool 82^ feels really good.  I actually get cold below 80^.  Most of us living in the Phoenix Valley have adjusted to the heat...unless we work in something like a super-air conditioned office.  I know it will sound gross to you, but the room with my computer where I type up my blogs is a comfy 100^ with no A/ choice.  My kids think I’m weird, but sitting here under the ceiling fan, with an icy cold drink, and after a dip in the pool, is like heaven to me.

Anyway, back to the tart.  It did hold up well.  Surprise.  And so did the “Baked” pie with its custard layer and creamy peanut butter layer...and all my sliced bananas in these pies stayed fresh brown bananas in my desserts.  Whew!

I will enjoy seeing all your tarts.  I’m guessing many of them made it to Mothers’ Day tables which I think is a wonderful idea.