Thursday, September 15, 2011
Remember my whole "I love boiled down jam the best" comments from earlier? That went out the window with the apricots. I did my first batch of apricot jam by boiling it down, but after an hour I still couldn't get it to the thickness I wanted. I was too burned out from 40 pounds of plums and probably double that in apricots to deal with boiling anymore. I went to the store for some pectin and didn't look back.
Side note: I have FANTASTIC recipes for canned spaghetti sauce and salsa that I will be posting as soon as my tomatoes finally ripen so I can use them! I'm hoping that happens in the next couple weeks!
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Eight or so years ago my good friend Cheryl bought a muffin cookbook with cover art that matched her kitchen decor perfectly. Year after year I looked at that book sitting happily on it's little kitchen display shelf hoping someday I'd find a copy to add to my (ever growing) collection. It must have been meant to be! About a year ago I was wandering around a local thrift store perusing the cookbook shelves of the book area--my most favorite thing to do there. As my eyes went back and forth along the shelves looking at all the titles (wondering how so many copies of Cooking the Costco Way could possibly be donated to one store), there it was in all it's glory! The muffin book I had been wanting for YEARS was just waiting for someone to take it home. It was in perfect condition. In fact, I could have sworn it was a brand new book that had never even been cracked open. Want to know what the best part was? The 2.00 price tag on the front! You can bet that book went home with me that day and is living happily ever after on one of my cookbook shelves.
Want to know how good they were? Let me just say that the one dozen muffins I made were gone by the end of the day. (I'd like to say Mr. C ate most of them, but I'd be lying. I'd be thinner, but I'd be lying.)
OK, now for my changes. They aren't big ones, but they've made a big difference in the taste of the muffins at our house. First, the mustard. One teaspoon just isn't enough in my opinion. The first time I made the recipe for Mr. C to taste test, we couldn't even tell the mustard was in there. Don't get me wrong, I'm not so in love with mustard that I need to feel like I'm eating a hot dog or a pretzel, but the flavor is a nice compliment to the ham and cheese so I like having a hint of it. To remedy that, I put in a full tablespoon (and sometimes even a bit more) rather than a teaspoon. If you do that, I don't think you'll be disappointed...or even be assaulted my mustard flavor. My second change is the cheese. I don't use Swiss and I don't use half a cup. For me, Swiss does not have a strong enough flavor to use in this recipe. I ALWAYS use cheddar cheese (mild, not sharp, but use sharp of you like it). Also, half a cup isn't enough to taste either. I ALWAYS use a full cup.
When all was said and done I didn't end up feeling like the "Hostess with the Most-ess." Although, one of my aunts asked for the muffin recipe and another said, "I'm coming back to this hotel!" I hope that means they enjoyed themselves. I was delighted to have them here and it gave me a great excuse to try out a new recipe. We'll see if they want to check back in to Hotel C again next year!
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Monday, April 18, 2011
So then I scrapped the idea of lots and lots of blog posts and just stuck with cooking something new and exciting every weekend day.
That DID happen.
What didn't happen was having all those new and exciting things turn out so fabulous and delicious they were worthy of blog posts.
I'm not sure what has happened, but I have been in a downward cooking spiral lately. It seems like everything I've been attempting to make turns out to be disasterous in the process or less than thrilling in taste...assuming I actually got it to work. Not only that, poor Mr. C fell victim to my disasterous cooking spree when I accidentally hit a measuring cup full of boiling water as I was pulling it out of the microwave. The mini flood landed in a pan of oil he was using to fry up some tortillas.
Oil burn. NICE!
That was it...the final straw. I said right then and there, "I am not going to cook anymore. Nothing is working for me lately." Good thing I have a few recipes in my "to be posted" computer file. Since strawberries are starting to fill the grocery store shelves, and prices are finally coming down (unlike everything else at the grocery store), how about if we stroll down strawberry lane with "Strawberries and Cream on a Cloud."
Mr. C chose this recipe for our Sunday dessert a couple weeks ago. It's one I got at a class I attended a long time ago at Thanksgiving Point (long before I became Mrs. C)--back when the classes there weren't almost 50.00 each. I wish I could remember the teacher's name, but I can't. (I think it might have been Lori Bennett.)
Without question, the best part of this recipe is the "Creme Anglaise" that is drizzled (or in my case, POURED) over the top. It's absolute edible ecstacy. Take a look at the recipe and then we'll chat about some of the changes I made to the recipe.
Strawberries and Cream on a Cloud
8 c sliced strawberries
2 T sugar
2 T orange juice
1 t grated orange rind
3/4 c slivered almonds
2 T sugar
1 c cake flour
1/2 c powdered sugar
1/2 t salt
10 large egg whites (save 8 of the yolks for later)
1 1/4 t cream of tartar
3/4 c sugar
1 1/2 t almond extract
2/3 c sugar
8 large egg yolks
3 1/2 c 1% milk
1 T vanilla
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. To prepare strawberries, combine ingredients in a bowl. Cover and chill 3 hours. To prepare cake, place almonds and 2 T sugar in a food processor; pulse until finely chopped. Sift together cake flour, powdered sugar, and salt in to a bowl. Combine the almond mixture with flour mixture, set aside. In the large bowl of a mixer, beat egg whites at high speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar; beat until soft peaks form. Add granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Sprinkle flour mixture over egg white mixture, folding it in 1/4 c at a time. Fold in almond extract. Spoon the batter into an ungreased 10-inch fluted/bundt pan and spread evenly. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour or until the cake springs back when lightly touched. While the cake is baking, prepare the creme anglaise. Combine the sugar and egg yolks in a large saucepan, stirring with a whisk until blended. Gradually add milk to the pan, stirring constantly with a whisk. Cook over medium heat until mixture coats the back of a spoon (about 8 minutes), stirring constantly. Immediately pour mixture into a bowl; stir in vanilla. Cover and chill. (The mixture will thicken as it cools.) When cake is done baking, turn the pan upside down and cool 40 minutes. Loosen cake from sides of pan using a narrow metal spatula. Invert cake onto plate. Serve with strawberries and creme anglaise.
Are you salivating yet? You should be. If nothing else, the creme anglaise is worth drooling over.
Let's talk about a couple changes I made. First, I used orange juice concentrate instead of regular orange juice for my berries. I don't recommend doing that. It was too strong. Because I love the almond and vanilla flavors in the other elements of the recipe so much, the super strong orange taste was just a bit too overpowering. Next time, I'll use plain juice.
Second, I didn't have any slivered almonds for the cake so I used sliced. The substitution worked just fine. The cake is nothing more that homemade angel food cake with finely chopped nuts added. If you don't want to go to the effort of making homemade angel food cake, just buy one. However, after trying my friend Cindy's homemade version a couple years ago, I'll never buy a store bought one again. The freshness of homemade just can't be beat. If you're never tried homemade, try it just once...for me. The cake is relatively easy to make. It takes a little patience to go from this... ...to this... ...but it is OH SO WORTH IT! The cake needs to be inverted while it cools. Since an angel food cake/fluted pan has a hole in the middle, I prop mine on top of one of my vinegar bottles. It'a a great little set up.
The last changes I made were in the creme. The recipe calls for 1% milk. I never have that on hand since all we drink is skim. I used skim and didn't really have any issues other than timing. The original recipe says it takes about 8 minutes for the creme to become thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, but mine too MUCH longer--probably twice that. Whether or not that was caused by the lack of fat content in the milk, I don't know. Either way, everything tasted just fine in the end. Also, I added a teaspoon of almond extract to the creme in addition to the tablespoon of the vanilla. As I mentioned in my last post, Mr. C is so enthralled with almond extract, I knew he'd go crazy for it. And he did! (To be honest, so did I!) It's a great addition to the creme, so I'll make it a permanent part of the recipe from now on.
As you can see, we didn't exactly drizzle the creme on. With something that delectible, more is definately better! One of the nice things about this dessert is that all the components save for several days so it is one you can enjoy over and over. We ran out of berries before anything else. In fact, I still have creme in the fridge and half the cake is chillin' in the freezer for now.
I think I see a trifle coming!
Friday, March 11, 2011
Sometimes I get a little burned out on poppy seed recipes since they became so trendy years ago with muffins, breads, and salad dressings. It's not that they don't taste good--don't get me wrong. It's just that I often find them unoriginal. Nevertheless, Mr. C saw the word almond in the title during his dessert search and that was all it took.
The recipe is very easy to follow and put together. Take a look at it and then I'll add a couple personal notes on the flip side.
Almond Poppy Seed Bars
2 1/4 c sugar
1 1/2 c milk
1 c oil
3 large eggs
1 T vanilla extract
1 1/2 t almond extract
3 c flour
4 1/2 t poppy seeds
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
3 c powdered sugar
1/3 c butter, melted
3 T milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 12 X 17 X 1 baking pan. In a large bowl, beat sugar, milk, oil, eggs, vanilla, and almond extract at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. In a medium bowl, combine flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add to sugar mixture, beating until combined; spoon into prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool until slightly warm. For frosting, combine all ingredients and beat at low speed with an electric mixture until smooth. Spread frosting over warm cake. Cut in to squares and serve.
In making my bars, I changed two things from the original recipe. First, the original recipe says to use a 10 X 15 pan. I tried that, but it was way too small. The pan was not big enough to hold all the batter. I bumped up to a 12 X 17 (make sure your pan has an edge!) and that was large enough. The other change I had to make was the cooking time. The original recipe says 20-25 min. I had to go 28 minutes. My convection oven can sometimes have issues with cakes, so that's why I listed a bake time of 25 minutes above. You might be able to go as short as 20 minutes, but I'd guess you'll need at least 25.
Just a word about the frosting. There was PLENTY. In fact, there was almost too much for me because the bars are not very thick. But, I will be the first to admit that I am not a powdered sugar glaze/frosting girl. (I feel like no matter what you do, it always tastes like powdered sugar.) I did add a bit of almond extract to my frosting for both my and Mr. C's benefit. Had the cake been in the 10 X 15 pan, there would have been too much frosting for me for sure.
One side note about poppy seeds. I highly recommend that you do NOT buy a small bottle from the spice section of your grocery store. Poppy seeds are WAY WAY WAY too expensive when you buy them in that packaging. If you can buy them in bulk, it's the best way to go. My brother-in-law works for Honeyville Grain, so I buy mine there. Honeyville offers a great price for a good quantity of seeds. If you don't have access to a bulk buying option, swing by the bakery counter of your local grocery store. Bakeries will sell you items like seeds (poppy or sesame) or sprinkles (yes, they are cheaper than the bottles too!) used in making their own baked products. You'll save a lot by purchasing your seeds (and sprinkles) this way.
Overall, we really liked this recipe. (It's being given a permanent home in my recipe binder.) After baking up the bars are more like a cake, but they are flavorful and moist no matter how you classify them. If you need a quick and easy dessert, or want to try something new and different, you won't go wrong with this one!
Saturday, February 12, 2011
I recently opened my veggie crisper to find that I had let a stalk of celery age past it's prime. DARN IT! I get so annoyed with myself when I let that happen. Then I remembered reading online somewhere that you can soak stalks of celery in water for 24 hours to rehydrate and revitalize them.
I decided to give it a try:
So...does it really work?
For me, yes and no. Ultimately my stalks were returned to a fair amount of firmness, but I had to let them soak in the water for three days, not one. The stalks weren't super crispy as if they were fresh from the grocery store, but they were firm enough I was able to use them in a couple recipes.
Would I do it again? Probably not. I think I'll just try harder not to let the celery get soft!
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Ever since I was young (yes, that means for a LONG time), I have had a love affair with chocolate mousse. I don't know why. I don't know how it started. But, whenever I'm asked what my favorite dessert is, it's not uncommon to answer "chocolate mousse." (I actually have a lot of favorites. I can never narrow my favorites down to one.) I can remember going to Sunday brunches and always going straight to the always dainty pedestal glasses of chocolate mousse before anything else. MMMMM! Just thinking about a dish of that smooth, creamy, rich, decadent dessert is making my mouth water!
Several years ago during a routine trip to the grocery store, I noticed some recipe cards available for the taking on a service counter. (How could I not grab a couple???) One of the recipes was for....cue the angelic chorus now...CHOCOLATE MOUSSE. Since I'd never attempted to make this delicacy myself, I grabbed a card and told myself that I would, indeed, someday, make a big ol' bowl of long time favorite dessert. I tucked the card away awaiting the perfect moment to pull it out.
And then it arrived...VALENTINE'S DAY! The holiday of love, delicious dinners, and chocolate! Mr. C and I talked it over and decided this was the perfect opportunity to pull out the chocolate mousse recipe and GO FOR IT!
On a personal note, let me just say how bizarre it was when Mr. C and I were dating to discover that his favorite dessert is also chocolate mousse. I'd never met anyone else who loves as much as I do. Not only does he love chocolate mousse, he loves Idaho Spud candy bars like I do. I didn't even know anyone else knew they existed. OK, enough of the goofy personal stuff. Time to get back to the pressing matter at hand...mousse!
The mousse came together so quick and easy. I was shocked at how simple it was to make. Then again, how could it not be when it only has 4 ingredients? Let's take a look at the recipe and we'll talk about it on the flip side:
8.8 oz fine Belgian dark chocolate
6 egg whites
1/2 c sugar
1 2/3 c cream
Melt chocolate. Slightly beat egg whites; add sugar then beat mixture until stiff. In a separate bowl, beat cream until soft peaks form. Fold egg whites in to the melted chocolate. Fold in the cream. Chill until ready to serve. Serves 10-12. The mousse can be served with whipped topping, berries, and/or chocolate shavings on top.
How simple is that!
Now a couple personal notes. First, for the chocolate in the recipe we used the Hageland chocolate that I refer to here. It is inexpensive and delicious. In my cooking classes I always say, "You get what you pay for when it comes to chocolate, so don't scrimp." I don't think you have to break the bank, but buy some good chocolate. Don't just pull out the bag of chocolate chips. Second, if you are saying, "But Jackie, I HATE dark chocolate," don't worry. Mr. C despises it with a passion I cannot describe to you here. This recipe has enough sugar and cream in it to ease what some consider bitterness in dark chocolate. The dark chocolate makes the mousse rich, but not bitter. Finally, unless you're feeding a crowd, you may want to cut the recipe in half. When it says "serves 10-12," it's not kidding. The recipe made A LOT. We ate it bit by bit for about a week.
Since Valentine's Day will be here in just a few short days, why not whip up a bowl for you and your sweetheart--or, just for you if you prefer. I'm not opposed to a bowl of my own, a spoon, and a comfy couch!