Saturday, May 21, 2016

Aunt Leah's Raspberry Squares


The Cake Slice Bakers are still baking from Maida Heatter's Cakes and this is another keeper recipe. Our choices this month included a tunnel-of-fudge cake called Big Daddy's Cake, a chocolate sponge cake rolled around a whipped cream filling, a light honey infused Marmalade Gingerbread and this wonderful raspberry recipe. It was hard to choose and I dithered (to use Sweetie's phrase) from Big Daddy to Gingerbread to Raspberry Squares. The cake roll was out because I couldn't figure out a way to do it without dairy and still keep to the spirit of the recipe.

I finally chose this recipe because I love Raspberries and I was curious to see if the yeast made any difference in the recipe. Any recipe with so much fat severely reduces the ability of the yeasts to thrive. As it turned out the yeast made it just a nice bit puffier than a regular pastry and added just the right amount of yeast flavor to enhance the buttery pastry flavor and to offset the sweetness of the raspberry filling.

As usual I made a few changes. The first one was involuntary. I was starting the dough and had proofed the yeast when I discovered that I had a tiny amount of flour in my canister and I needed sugar, too. My solution was to add 1/2 cup flour to the water and yeast and let that sit overnight in the fridge, covered. In the morning I went shopping, then made the dough using a food processor and well chilled margarine instead of butter. I used soy creamer, unflavored, instead of the milk. I let the dough sit, covered, on the counter at room temperature for about an hour, then put it into the fridge for 8 hours. In the evening I followed most of the rest of the recipe and baked it.

The only other change was the filling. Because I don't like raspberry seeds in a fine pastry like this, I sprang for the more expensive seedless jam. Because I had three limes but no lemons on hand, I grated lime zest over the bottom of the pastry, spread on the loosened jam, then, because I couldn't find my blanched almonds (one of the perils of baking at night when my brain is not as sharp as one might wish) I scattered 1/2 cup sliced almonds over the jam.

 I also reduced the number and spacing of pastry strips for the top layer...getting tired...but I made sure to keep a viable pattern of pastry.

The result was wonderful! Tender golden pastry encased the jam filling. The pastry is not sweet but it is delicious. Sweetie ate what was left raw and liked that, too. The jam is so sweet that I left off any confectioners' sugar decoration. A lovely dessert for a Friday evening! You should try it!


Aunt Leah's Raspberry Squares
from Maida Heatter's Cakes

1/4 cup barely warm water
1 envelope active dry yeast
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter (I used dairy-free margarine)
1 egg
1/2 cup evaporated milk (I used unflavored soy creamer)
Confectioners' sugar for decor (I skipped this)

Filling
1 pound (1 1/2 cups) thick raspberry preserves
Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon (or use a lime as I did)
2 1/2 oz. (1/2 cup) blanched almonds, chopped into medium size pieces (or use sliced almonds as I did)

For the Pastry:
In a small bowl add the warm water and yeast. Stir with a fork. Set aside.

Mix the flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. With a pastry blender cut in the butter until the particles are fine and the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Beat the egg and the milk just to mix, and add, along with the yeast, to the dry ingredients. Stir thoroughly to mix.

(The above steps from mixing the dry ingredients to mixing in the liquids and yeast, may all be done in a food processor as I did.)

Transfer the dough to a bowl, cover airtight, and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil or butter a 10 x 15 x 1-inch jelly-roll pan. It should not be a non-stick pan.

Flour a work surface and rolling pin. Turn the dough out onto the work surface, form it into a ball, and cut it in half. Set aside one of the pieces. I put it back into the bowl.

Shape the other piece into a rectangle, flouring the dough, work surface and your hands/rolling pin as you go as necessary. Roll the dough out to measure 12 x 17 inches. keeping the corners as square as you can and the sides as straight as you can. Loosely drape the rolled out dough over the rolling pin and transfer it to the buttered jelly-roll pan. With a small, sharp knife, trim the sides of the dough even with the top of the pan.

Sprinkle the citrus zest over the dough in the pan. Loosen the raspberry preserves with a fork and then spread that over the dough. Go all the way to the all the edges. I used a small offset spatula and that really worked well. Sprinkle with the sliced almonds. Set aside.

Flour the remaining dough and work surface and rolling pin and form it into a rectangle, rolled out to 10 x 15 inches. No need to be as perfect about straight sides or corners with this one.

With a zigzag or plain pastry wheel or pizza cutter, slice this rolled out dough into lengthwise strips 1/2 inch wide. Place half the strips on a diagonal about 1/2-inch apart over the filling, pinching them off level with the rim of the pan. Place the rest of the strips crisscrossing in the opposite direction, forming a lattice or diamond design, pinching off the ends here, too.

With your fingers, fold over the dough around the edges. Fold it in toward the center to form a border about 1/2 inch wide all around. With a fork, press down on it lightly to seal.



Without waiting for the dough to rise, place the pan in the oven and bake for 25 - 30 minutes, until nicely colored.

Cool in the pan.

With a sharp, small knife cut the cake into squares and transfer them to wax paper with a wide metal flexible spatula. Sprinkle confectioners' sugar through a fine strainer to decorate, if desired.

These may be frozen.


Monday, May 16, 2016

The Babes Bread of Spring


Things are sprouting and shooting up in the garden and around the property. Flowers are blooming and birds are singing. Spring. It's one of my favorite times of year. Our Kitchen of the Month, Cathy of Bread Experience has asked the Bread Baking Babes to make a spring flatbread/focaccia topped with thin lemon slices and our choice of herbs and spring greens. As you can see from the photo, it makes a very visually appealing dish.

The bread itself is fairly easy. I saved half the dough, in two pieces, in oiled ziploc bags in the fridge and baked them almost a week later. The flavor was even deeper than the original bread, so consider retarding your dough longer than the recipe indicates if you like a full flavored bread.

I made this lovely recipe over a week ago and the bread was just devoured when served! I picked some miner's lettuce, tiny dandelion greens and fresh herbs from my garden, then added super thin bits of asparagus, too. With the thin slices of Meyer lemon, it just sang Spring! A wonderful May recipe! 

For the refrigerated dough I made half with fresh rosemary, sea salt and olive oil on top and the other with those and a sprinkle of mixed seeds. I think I liked the simplest one the best, although the lemon slices really added to the bread, so it would be hard to choose. I'll be making this again!

Choose to make this bread and become a Buddy. Let us know how you topped yours and how it was making the bread, then send that along with a photo to Cathy. Check her blog, Bread Experience  for more details. Get it to her by May 29th to be included in the roundup.  If you do not have a blog, no problem; you can also post your picture(s) to Flickr (or any other photo sharing site) and record your thoughts about the bread there. Please remember to email Cathy at Bread Experience to say that your post is up.


Be sure to check out what the other Babes have done this month, too.
The active Bread Baking Babes are:


Thin Crispy Spring Focaccia
Adapted from: The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Bread Baking by The French Culinary Institute
Makes: Four ~400-gram Focaccias

Poolish:
40 grams (100 %) Bread Flour
44 grams (125%) water, room temperature
1/8 teaspoon/ 4 grams (10%) instant yeast

Final Dough
668 grams (80%) Bread Flour
167 grams (20%) whole wheat, or bread flour
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
625 grams (75%) - 725 grams (87%) water *
84 grams (All) Poolish
17 grams Olive Oil
25 grams water (3%), to mix with the salt
17 grams Coarse Sea Salt

Topping Suggestions:
Olive Oil
Coarse Sea Salt, for sprinkling if desired
Fennel Seeds, to taste
Dried Thyme, to taste
Lemon slices, thinly sliced
Spring Mix Greens, or other greens as desired
Alfalfa Sprouts
Tiny blanched asparagus
Fresh rosemary

Poolish:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the bread flour and yeast. Pour in the room temperature water and combine using a wooden spoon. Scrape down the sides of the bowl using a spatula or dough scraper. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest on the counter at room temperature (75 degrees F. /25 degrees C.) for 12 to 14 hours.

Final Dough:
The next day, or when ready to mix the final dough, whisk together the flours and yeast in a large bowl. Pour the water and oil over the poolish and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon or Danish dough whisk to break up the poolish. Add the water gradually, reserving the 25 grams to mix with the salt.  I started with about 650 grams (78%), then gradually added more water until the dough reached the consistency I was looking for 725 grams (87%).  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a dough scraper, cover and let it rest (autolyze) for 20 minutes.

Uncover and sprinkle the salt over the top of the dough. Pour the remaining 25 grams of water over the salt to dissolve it.  Using wet hands, thoroughly incorporate the salt into the dough. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let it rest for 20 minutes.

Sprinkle water on a work surface. Uncover the dough and transfer it to the wet surface. Using wet hands, fold the dough from all sides.  Then gently tuck the seams under and place the dough back in the bowl.  Using water on the counter and your hands, alleviates the need to oil the bowl or the work surface. Cover the bowl again with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and set the dough aside for the third time to ferment for 20 minutes.

Sprinkle water on the work surface again and fold the dough one last time. Tuck the seams under and place it back in the bowl. Cover and set it aside to ferment for 2 hours. (I let mine ferment overnight in the fridge.)

An hour before you plan to bake the focaccia, place a baking stone or tiles in the oven and preheat it to 500 degrees F. (260 degrees C.) If you plan to use a pan for steam, place it in the oven at this time.

Sprinkle your work surface with water. Transfer the dough to the work surface and divide it into four equal pieces. Depending on the type of flour you use and the hydration, each piece will be approximately 400 grams.  Mine were about 410 grams each. Shape each piece into a round and cover with plastic. Let them bench rest for 15 minutes.

At this point, I wrapped two of the dough balls in oiled plastic, placed them in a plastic bag and put them in the refrigerator to use another day. Feel free to make them all at once if you prefer.

Lightly oil two half sheets of parchment paper. Place one dough ball on each sheet. Gently press on the dough to degas it and then shape each piece into a flattish round.  Cover the rounds with plastic wrap and let them proof for 45 minutes.

Uncover the dough, drizzle olive oil over the top and gently stretch each piece into an oval disk the length of the parchment paper, or to the desired size.  Sprinkle the top with fennel seeds, thyme and sea salt (optional) and place thinly sliced lemons, as desired.   

Using a baker’s peel or unrimmed baking sheet, transfer the focaccia (on the parchment) to the preheated baking stone.  If using steam, add ice cubes to the steam pan.  I used my new baking steel with no added steam.  

Bake the focaccia for 10 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown and crisp around the edges. Remove the parchment paper partway through baking to allow the bottom to firm up.

Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Add a handful of the spring mix greens and sprouted alfalfa and tear apart pieces or slice it if you prefer. 

Repeat with the remaining focaccias.

I recommend using lots of lemon slices, sliced very thin...it makes the bread special! Use the toppings of your choice.


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Raspberry Overnight Waffles


As long as your waffle iron works (and that you actually have a waffle iron), there is nothing as wonderfully crisp and delicious in the waffle world as Overnight Waffles. Thank you Mollie Katzen! The batter is started the night before and in the morning you add melted butter and eggs and are ready to go in no time. Because these are yeast waffles, the steam that emanates from the waffle iron as they bake smells just like freshly baked bread. In my house that means that the waffles just can't bake fast enough. On a recent morning, the waffle iron seemed to be having trouble getting up to baking temperature, so the wait seemed even more interminable.

For this venture into waffle land I decided to add fresh raspberries to the waffles before they baked. They were pretty large raspberries, so I sliced each one in half. The addition of those sweet red berries really was a great idea because they tasted wonderful, looked better than plain waffles and we had the addition of warm raspberry scent added to the warm bread fragrance. Lucious!

You can get creative and use another berry or diced fruit instead of the raspberries. Chopped nuts are also a nice addition. Topping with more berries is even better!

Be sure to have a well greased iron and one that gets as hot as possible since that makes for a lovely crispy waffle and golden crust. Serve right away with your favorite toppings. Berries, jam drizzle, yogurt and/or whipped cream. Maple syrup is classic but imagine these with an apricot syrup. If your mouth isn't watering by now, perhaps you should move on to another blog.


Amazing Overnight Waffles with Raspberries
adapted from Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Cafe' Cookbook

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups milk (I used a mixture of soy creamer and rice milk)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (I melted some non-dairy margarine)
1 large egg (or  ¼ cup egg substitute)
Nonstick spray
Butter for the waffle iron
1 cup fresh raspberries, rinsed, blotted with a towel, then carefully sliced in halves
Pure maple syrup – hard to resist on waffles

Combine the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl Add the milk (or rice/soy milk mixture) and whisk until blended. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand overnight at room temperature (or put in the fridge if room temp. is over 70 degrees F.)

The next morning, preheat the waffle iron. Melt the 6 tablespoons butter (or non-dairy margarine) and let cool a bit. Beat the egg is a small bowl (unnecessary if using egg substitute) then beat it into the batter along with the melted butter. The batter may be a bit thin.

Lightly spray the hot waffle iron with non stick spray, top and bottom plates, and then butter a piece of bread and use that to rub some butter on top and bottom plates.

Add just enough batter to cover the cooking surface…this varies by waffle iron…about 2/3 cup. Scatter about 12-14 raspberry halves over the batter. Lower the top and cook until golden brown. That is usually when the bread fragranced steam almost stops coming from the waffle iron...it’s OK to check now and then. It takes about 2-3 minutes, but cook longer if you prefer. I like them golden brown, but not dark brown.

Serve hot, right away, with strawberries and maple syrup, or toppings of your choice.


Note; If you have too many waffles for the number of people you are feeding, bake the leftover batter a little less than the ones you are eating, let cool on a baking rack, then freeze and store in the freezer tightly wrapped. Re-heat in the toaster.

One of the things that often keeps me from making anything more complicated for breakfast than a bowl of oatmeal  or some fruit and toast is the time it takes to put together a batter (pancake, waffle, muffin, coffee cake) and then cook/bake it and then clean up from it.

The advantage of this waffle recipe is that you start the batter the night before and only need to add the egg and melted butter in the morning. Now, it's true, there is still some cleaning up to do (although half can be done the night before) and waffles do take a while to bake in the waffle iron, but the amazing ease of finishing off the batter, plus the fact that they taste great, makes it worthwhile. An added bonus is that the house smells like freshly baked bread...hard to beat on a chilly spring morning. Add some fresh raspberries and you have a decadent way to start the day.

The ingredients for this are so simple that most people will have them handy in the pantry. That makes it so easy to whisk the first part together one evening, cover it, let the little yeasties do their thing overnight, then finish it off and enjoy the next morning. These freeze well and can be easily reheated in a toaster or toaster oven...if any are left.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Using Up Roasted Turkey


This should probably be a post for November, but the truth is that I love turkey and eat it year 'round. With the easy availability now of turkey parts at my local market, it's easy to pick up a pack of turkey thighs and cook them in the toaster oven until roasted. Since my toaster oven is located in my studio, away from the house, this works well when the temperature is in the upper 80s as it was earlier in the week.

Once the initial dinner of roast, sliced turkey, mashed potatoes and peas passed, I still had plenty of turkey to use and it was more easily cut into chunks than sliced. Perfect for putting into a pasta sauce. In the past I've made a cream based pasta sauce with herbs and mushrooms, so I decided to try that but to use rice milk and soy creamer instead of milk, creating my own recipe as I went along.

It worked really well and since I included fresh rosemary along with dried thyme and sage, plus a large amount of green garlic (a gift from a neighbor), it was pungent in fragrance as well as delightful in flavor. Because this kind of sauce can be a bit staid, even with all of those ingredients, I used two strips of local bacon for added depth of flavor. I cooked the bacon first and used the drippings (after removing the bacon itself) to saute the mushrooms, celery and green garlic.

This made a wonderful pasta sauce and went well with a fresh green salad embellished with orange segments, avocado and a balsamic dressing. Although I did use gluten free pasta, I used regular flour for the sauce. I've figured out that I need to keep my gluten down to a low level but don't have to eliminate it altogether. If you do, just substitute a GF flour mix in the sauce and cut back the milk by a couple of tablespoons. Then, once the liquid has thickened, add more if needed to make the sauce the consistency you like.


Turkey Mushroom Pasta Sauce with Green Garlic

2 strips of bacon, cut into roughly 1-inch pieces
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup sliced mushrooms (I used baby bellas)
1/2 cup finely chopped tender green garlic bulb (no roots or skin or tough parts)
(if green garlic not available, used 1/2 cup finely chopped onion, plus 2-3 minced garlic cloves)
2 cups diced (bite sized) cooked turkey
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 tespoon dried sage
1 tablespoon fresh, chopped rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup rice milk or other non-dairy milk
2 tablespoons soy creamer, unsweetened and unflavored
salt and pepper to taste

In a large, heavy bottomed pot cook the bacon over medium-low heat until browned and fat rendered. Remove bacon from pot with a slotted spoon to a piece of paper towel to drain.

Increase heat to medium-high and add the celery. Stir to coat with oil. Cook, uncovered 1 minute, stirring as needed. Add the mushrooms, stir to combine with the celery, cover, and cook 3 minutes. Remove cover, stir well, cover and cook 1 more minute. Uncover, stir in the green garlic, cover, lower heat to medium-low and cook 2 minutes. Uncover and stir in the turkey, thyme, sage and rosemary. Cover and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from burning or sticking.

In a large measuring cup, whisk the milk into the flour slowly to avoid clumping. Uncover the pot, raise heat to medium, and pour the milk mixture in all at once. Immediately stir vigorously to combine all the ingredients in the pot with the milk mixture and continue stirring until the liquid thickens. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Cover, reduce heat to lowest setting and cook 1 minute to combine flavors. Uncover, add the soy creamer if needed to make the sauce the consistency you like.

Serve over cooked pasta or rice. Sprinkle each serving with chopped Italian parsley if desired.

Serves 4.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Garden At The Moment


I confess, I have not been spending much time being creative in the kitchen. I have made the May bread for the Bread Baking Babes, but that won't be posted until May 16th. There has been the usual cooking for dinners for the two of us, but that is almost always something easy, tried, and true...and already posted on this blog.

The reason for less time in the kitchen has been that I've been spending more time in the garden. When the usual time (in this area) for weeding and garden prep came around in February and March I wasn't feeling well and had no energy.


Fortunately for me Mother Nature decided to ignore the calendar and give us rain in April quite a few times. That loosened up the soil enough for me to do April weeding and some planting, too. Sweetie dug some holes for putting gopher baskets and plants into the ground..a rose bush, a Meyer lemon bush and a daphne bush.



Those pesky gophers are not to be trusted, so almost anything that goes into the ground has to be encased in a wire basket to discourage the gophers from munching on the roots or even the whole plant. I lost 10 rose bushes the first year we lived here since I didn't know better and planted the roses right in the ground. I think those creatures are still showing up every year hoping I'll be that foolish again!


With May underway the containers that keep the plants happy and out of the ground are being filled with potting soil and I've gotten a few seedlings planted and a number of seeds, too. Rain is expected sometime during the next three days, so everything will get a welcome soaking.

Last, but not least, I've hauled quite a few bags worth of mulch to spread and keep weeds at bay. Since my strength is still not full force, I usually scoop about a third of the bag into a smaller container, spread that, scoop the next third, spread that, then haul the bag itself to be tipped and spread. It takes longer, but works just as well as trying to tip the whole bag out all at once.

Most years I plant a lot of tomato and squash seeds into little cells in February and start them in our sunspace indoors. Now that I have to restrict my consumption of tomatoes, that seemed like a lot of work for no reason, so I only did some squash plants that way



and purchased two tomato seedlings so that Sweetie would have tomatoes for his salads. These are all planted and doing well. Next I'm going to address the plants (and weeds) closer to the house. Don't expect too many posts, OK? The garden siren song is calling again.


Monday, May 02, 2016

Custard Without Milk...In A Quiche


I enjoy making quiche and have made a few which have been posted on this blog, but now I decided that rather than forgo quiche due to the use of milk in the custard that I would try making it using soy creamer. Soy milk, or any rice or nut milk would probably work, but I like the thickness of Silk brand original (unflavored) soy creamer, so I went with that. I also used to put cheese in my quiches but still haven't found a non-dairy cheese worth bothering with, so this is a custard pie with ham, mushrooms and asparagus. It's different, but worth making.

It was well over 80 today when I was making this pie, so I decided to use my toaster oven, which is out in my studio. Since I wasn't going to be in there except to put the quiche in and out of the oven it didn't matter if it got heated up, but I didn't want to do that to my regular kitchen. The unfortunate thing is that since I wasn't there to check on it, the blind bake went on too long and so the final crust was pretty dark brown in a lot of spots...almost burnt.


Other than that, it was a lovely quiche. I lowered the heat for baking it after my experience with the crust and also baked it for a shorter time than the recipe called for. Since I had browned the mushrooms before I put them in the crust, they went on the bottom. Over that I put the blanched asparagus, then I scattered the diced ham on top. This is truly asparagus season around here, so it made a very seasonal and delicious dish. The custard was not quite as tender as one made with milk but we didn't miss the cheese with all that yummy ham, asparagus and mushroom flavors going on.



Quiche with Swiss Chard and Swiss Cheese and Bacon1 9-inch pie shell, blind baked at 425 degrees F for 10-12 minutes (recipe follows)
1½ cup sliced fresh mushrooms, sauteed for 5 minutes in an oil slicked frying pan, then set aside
1 cup blanched asparagus pieces
1 cup diced cooked ham
3 eggs (or equivalent egg substitute)
1 ½ cups soy creamer or evaporated milk or light cream
¼ teaspoon salt
dash pepper
Dash nutmeg
dash dried thyme

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sprinkle the bottom of the pie shell with the mushrooms, asparagus, and ham, distributing evenly. Set aside

In a bowl, beat the eggs lightly, then add the soy creamer and beat with a fork to combine, add the salt, pepper, nutmeg and thyme and beat with a fork to combine.

Pour the egg/milk mixture over the ingredients in the blind baked pie shell. Place in the preheated oven and bake 30-45 minutes, or until set and lightly browned. Cool for 10 minutes before cutting to serve.
Serves 6-8

Pastry Pie Shell

1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chilled butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons ice water
1 teaspoon lemon juice (optional)

Mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender, or two knives, until particles the size of dried peas are formed.

In a small bowl mix together the egg, ice water and lemon juice (if using). Sprinkle over the flour mixture and toss with a fork lightly. Do not over mix. Gather the particles together in a ball. Wrap airtight and chill in the freezer for 10 minutes. Roll out with a rolling pin on a floured surface until large enough to fill a 9 inch pie pan with some overlap.

Fit into a 9 inch pie pan, smooth to fit, trip excess, tuck edges under and crimp as for any pie crust. Prick lightly all over the surface with a fork. Freeze 10 minutes. Remove from freezer and cover with a circle of parchment paper. Fill the paper with beans or pie weights (blind baking the crust).
Bake at 425 degrees F for 10 – 12 minutes. Cool slightly. Remove and save the beans or pie weights. 

Fill the blind baked crust with filling as called for in recipes needing a pie shell. If the crust has browned too much, use a piece or two pieces of foil to create a shield for the part of the crust that is over browned after filling the crust.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Years Go By


Back when I was in the spring of my life I met a fine and wonderful man, a gem, a treasure beyond imagining. At the time I had no real idea of how he would change my life and be the one who would come to know me best, warts and all. The amazing thing, then and still, is that he loves me and wants me to be myself and not someone else, not even when it might be easier for him if I was. I love that about him, along with all the other fine and wonderful qualities.

The years go by. We make a life, marry, have children, change jobs, move to another home, weather adversity together and celebrate together, have our ups and downs as all true relationships tend to do.

Over 35 years pass since we marry. These past few days we celebrate another year together with a trip to one of our favorite places, Monterey, CA.

We take Pi with us and he enjoys our favorite inn, The Victorian Inn. They love dogs there and he enjoyed the window seat


and the bed


plus having his water dish on a marble fireplace hearth...fancy!

We took a number or walks around the area near Cannery Row and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, visited a bookstore of course, had lunch at the Sea Harvest Fish Market (where there might be a whale bone at the end of the parking lot),



enjoyed the morning as we ate breakfast outdoors under a lovely arbor on Wave St. at the Wave Street Cafe with a great view of Monterey Bay, and had our anniversary dinner at Bistro Moulin, also on Wave St., a quiet place with sophisticated French food, not far from the Aquarium.



The walkers and bicyclists were out in force on the bike and pedestrian path where the railroad used to be and we were amazed at how many rusting old tanks still exist from the days when sardines were canned here in the time of Steinbeck. When we first started coming here a few years before we married, there were a lot more ruins but now there are many newer buildings and lots of places for tourists to spend their money. Back then one of the old buildings held a carousel but that's long gone and now the space is either a parking structure or a movie theatre. The biggest draw for me is always the water.


On the way home we encountered some rain but by the time we pulled off the freeway for a break at a oak shaded vista overlook near Filoli, it was sunny with just a bit of mist in the distance over Crystal Reservoir and lots of fluffy clouds.



At home all was well and one of my yellow roses had opened and was a sunny welcome home.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Cake Slice Bakers Orange Cake with Cranberries


I love it when we get to the third week of the month and it's time for the Cake Slice Bakers.We usually have four recipes to choose from and it's fun to imagine baking one, then another, and often all four of them. Still, Sweetie continues to drop the pounds from his frame and has asked me to keep the baking down to just a few, so I do have to choose.

This month I chose the Blueberry-Nut Loaf Cake, but the blueberries at the market were going for $5 a basket, so I decided to substitute dried cranberries and to soak them for a while in the fresh orange juice to soften them up. I love the flavor combo of orange and cranberry, so why not?

This is a fairly light cake with a delicate crumb and I enjoyed it a lot. The pecans added both crunch and flavor and the cranberries and assertive orange flavor played well together.


I baked the batter in a combo Bundt pan so I got two smaller Bundt cakes in two different designs. We each had a piece after dinner while the cake was still a little warm. Delicious! There is a lot of orange zest in the batter, so large parts of the finished cake are a pretty orange color, which looks nice with the cranberries.

Because I didn't use fresh blueberries, my directions are different than the original recipe, but this is really an easy cake, so just follow along and you, too, can have a nice little cake to enjoy in the afternoon with tea or coffee or as a dessert later in the day.


Cranberry - Nut Bundt Cake

1 1/4 cup pecans
2 large, deep colored oranges
1 cup dried cranberries (Craisins)
grease and fine dry bread crumbs for pan
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (I used a butter substitute with no dairy)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg at room temperature

Coarsely chop the pecans. Set aside.

Grate the rind, zest only, from the oranges. Reserve the zest and cut the oranges in half, then juice them. Measure 3/4 cup orange juice. Place the dried cranberries in a narrow container ( a Pyrex measuring cup that holds two cups works well) and pour the orange juice over the dried cranberries. Let sit for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 10 1/2 x 4 x 3-inch loaf pan or a Bundt pan that has two smaller cake pans in it, or a small Bundt pan. Dust with fine dry breadcrumbs and knock out excess crumbs. Set pan aside.

Melt the butter and let cool.

Sift together the sugar, flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg just to mix. Add the butter and mix. Drain the cranberries and add just the orange juice to the egg mixture and beat to mix. Set the cranberries aside.
On low speed add the sifted dry ingredients to the egg mixture and beat only to mix. Remove from the mixer and stir in the drained cranberries, the grated rinds and the nuts. If you use a spatula, you can make sure that all is well combined with just a few strokes.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan((s), smoothing the top and knocking the pan against the counter a couple of times to dislodge air bubbles. Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, or until a cake tester gently inserted into the middle comes out clean and dry. If the cake cracks on the top, it's OK.

Cool the cake on a rack for 10 minutes, then cover the cake with a rack and turn out onto the rack. If using a bread pan, turn cake right side up. If using a Bundt pan, keep it upside down. Move to a cake plate and let cool completely.

To serve, if desired, sift some powdered sugar lightly over the cake.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

So Not Cinnamon Rolls


The Bread Baking Babes were given an unusual challenge for April by Baking Soda (Karen) of our Kitchen of the Month, Bake My Day. We were to make rolls that look like cinnamon rolls, but have no cinnamon. The dough is also unusual because it contains yeast like many cinnamon rolls, but also has both baking powder and baking soda, ingredients usually used to help the dough rise when no yeast is used. I was intrigued to see how this would work out.

These are light rolls but have a texture closer to coffee cake than to rolls with only yeast. They are soft and the dough seemed easy to work with, probably because there was a fair amount of oil. I added some freshly grated nutmeg to the dough (not cinnamon!) and then decided to use a flavored honey as the filling. The honey flavors are lemon and lavender but I decided that since the honey was so sweet that it needed the additional tang of freshly grated lemon zest, so I sprinkled the zest of one Meyer lemon over the honey that was spread over the rolled out dough. The filling was still pretty sweet but the zest cut it to an enjoyable amount.

This was a tasty combination, if a bit sticky one. The rolls didn't want to unstick from the bottom of the baking pan, so I ended up scooping them out with a spatula, which damaged the middle one a bit. Still, Sweetie and I enjoyed them and found willing friends and family to help eat the rest.

I don't think I'll make this dough again since I prefer the texture of yeasted sweet rolls with no additional baking powder or baking soda, but I might use the honey and zest again, perhaps with some toasted pecans or almonds.


It was fun to make these rolls with no cinnamon and, really, there are lots of other fillings that are delicious. Check out my fellow Bread Baking Babes to see what they have filled theirs with.

You can also be a Buddy by baking your own Not Cinnamon Rolls, taking a photo or two and sending an e-mail to Baking Soda with a brief description of your rolls and include the photo for the round up. She will send you a Buddy Badge for your blog and include you in the round up. Just get it to her by April 28th.


Not Cinnamon Rolls
The ingredients:
480 ml  [2 cups] milk (I used soy milk)
120 ml [1/2 cup] vegetable oil 
95 gr [1/2 cup] sugar 
2 to 2.1/2 tsp yeast
520 gr [4 cups] all-purpose flour
65 gr [1 1/2 cup] 
all-purpose flour (extra, reserve to add later)
1/2 tsp heaping baking powder
1/2 tsp scant baking soda
1/2 tablespoon [9 gr] salt
1/4 cup honeyzest of one lemon

Oven: 375F / 190 C

Basically this recipe follows the rules for making rolls, as in: make the dough, bulk rise. Roll out in a rectangle, add filling of your choice, roll up from the long side and cut into slices. Proof and bake in a moderate oven.

Now the difference lies in the leavening combo and that comes to show in the rising method.
So:
Room temperature milk, vegetable oil, sugar and yeast in a bowl.
Add 4 cups of all-purpose flour. Stir until combined, cover and let rise for 1 hour. 

Next, remove the cover and add baking powder, baking soda, salt and the remaining 1 1/2 cups of flour. Stir thoroughly to combine. Plan to leave it in for 1 hour or so.

You may now proceed to roll out the dough in a rectangle or refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 3 days. (Probably need to keep an eye out for overflowing dough, so punch down if it rises to the top). Relatively slack dough so it probably is easier to work with when chilled!

Proceed as you will with any other rolls you make; roll dough into a large rectangle on a floured surface. Original states to roll thin, I rolled my usual thickness. Use whatever you feel comfortable with. 

To make the filling, use your imagination... go sweet, go savoury, go wacky. Make it yours and make it good! I used the honey drizzled over the rectangle, then sprinkled on the lemon zest.

Now you are probably ready to start rolling, I always start with the long side closest to me and roll away from my body. You could do it the other way round, I am easy like that! Just keep a tight roll.

Once you have your roll, pinch the seam and roll it once over so the seam is on the bottom. Slice into 1.1/2 inch thick slices, or use a piece of dental floss, crossed, to cut the rolls. Place in greased baking pans (I used 9" round ones). You could also line the bottom of the pan with parchment and grease the parchment. It would make it easier to get the rolls out of the pan once baked. Cover and set aside to rise for at least 20-45 minutes before baking.

Bake for 15-18 minutes in a preheated oven (375F/190C)until tops are golden brown. Turn out of the baking pan quickly because the honey will thicken and it will be hard to remove the rolls. Place right size up on a serving plate. Serve warm if at all possible.





Thursday, April 07, 2016

Three Time Tested Recipes for Dinner - Or Lunch


I've been blogging so long that there are a huge number of recipes posted...over a thousand. Even so, there are three or four that keep being requested, shared, recommended and so on. The recipes are below the four descriptions, so keep scrolling!

Most recent: Mediterranean Couscous Chicken Salad - Served this at lunch yesterday. It was perfect for a warm day since it can sit for a little while and be served at room temperature, plus it has the zing of lemon, the great marriage of tomatoes and basil and the bonus of tangy feta cheese, all held together with couscous which cooks in 5 minutes. If you have cut up chicken or turkey in your fridge or freezer, it all comes together in less than 20 minutes, including clean up. Hard to beat that on a busy evening. It can also be made the day ahead and is just as good.

For a Crowd: Lemon Garlic Chicken for a Crowd serves 15 - 30 depending on the serving size (one or two pieces of chicken) and it can be cut by 1/3 to serve 4-6 people, too. Another dish that is great during citrus season (NOW!), it is another one that can be made or partially made the day ahead. As a matter of fact, it is better to let it marinate all day or all night. Lemon joins mustard and olive oil, garlic and rosemary to make a sublime dish. If you are feeling fancy there is also a bread crumb topping to make it party-worthy. This one isn't a last-minute deal like the Couscous Chicken, but it is worth the planning.

From the Moosewood Cookbook: Spinach Rice Casserole - This is a great vegetarian main dish or sturdy, tasty side dish. You can use brown rice or white rice, although it is healthier with brown rice and has better flavor. There are eggs and milk and cheddar cheese and sunflower seeds, plus you can use either fresh spinach or thawed, squeezed, frozen spinach. It all bakes up in a flavorful casserole that appeals to children and adults alike (although you may want to pass the hot sauce for the adults and adventerous kids).

My Most Used - Creamy Coleslaw Dressing - If you love coleslaw as much as Sweetie does and as much as I do with barbeque, then you will find this a go-to recipe, too. I use low fat mayo and some yogurt along with the mustard, sugar, and apple cider vinegar, plus I thin it if necessary with soy milk. Try it with broccoli slaw, dried cranberries and toasted walnuts for a different take.


1 Mediterranean Couscous Salad
Serves 6-8

1 1/4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 (5.6 oz.) package roasted garlic couscous mix
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 (4 oz.) package crumbled feta cheese
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Garnish: fresh basil leaves

Note: You'll need to buy a 2/3 oz. package of fresh basil to get the right amount of basil for this recipe. Substitute 3-4 teaspoons (I used 3) dried basil if you can't get fresh.

Microwave broth and seasoning packet from couscous package at HIGH for 3-5 minutes or until broth begins to boil. Place couscous in a large bowl, and stir in broth mixture. Cover and let stand 5 minutes.
Uncover couscous and fluff couscous with a fork. Stir in basil and next 5 ingredients. Serve warm or cold. Garnish with fresh basil leaves or a sprinkle of toasted pine nuts, if desired.

G's Lemon Chicken for a Crowd
Serves about 25-30

30 boneless skinless chicken pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil for coating pans
1-2 heads garlic
6 lemons
1 16 oz. jar Dijon mustard
10-12 branches fresh rosemary, each about 5 inches long, divided
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (use the real thing for best flavor)
1 1/2 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Arrange the boneless skinless chicken thighs (or substitute some boneless skinless chicken breasts if you wish) in three 11 x 13 baking pans where the bottom of the pan have been lightly oiled with the olive oil, evenly divided. Keep the chicken pieces touching each other. Place whole, unpeeled garlic cloves between some of the pieces, about 5-6 cloves of garlic per pan.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the Dijon mustard, the juice of 6 lemons, and 3-4 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary. Whisk in 1/3 cup olive oil. Pour 1/3 of the mixture over each pan of chicken. Tuck a few sprigs of remaining fresh rosemary between some of the chicken pieces in each pan. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill 3-4 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Uncover the chicken and place the pans in the oven, spacing evenly about the interior if possible. Bake for 40 minutes or until the juice runs clear when a piece of chicken is pierced.

If desired, about 10 minutes before the chicken is done, mix together the Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs and parsley; sprinkle this mixture evenly over the chicken, using about 1/3 for each pan. Return to oven to bake last 10 minutes.

Serve over rice, mashed potatoes, or boiled potatoes, with bread to sop up the sauce. The sauce is mighty good. The chicken is amazing.

You can divide this recipe by 1/3 to make chicken for a family :) Leftovers are delicious, too. You can also freeze this, well wrapped, for a month. Thaw in the refrigerator, then bake in a 350 degree oven until heated through, or in the microwave, reheating at no more than 50% power.

for a smaller group:
Sunny Citrus Chicken
Serves about 4-6

10 boneless skinless chicken pieces
1 tablespoons olive oil for coating pans
6-8 cloves fresh garlic
2 lemons
¼ cup Dijon mustard
4 branches fresh rosemary, each about 5 inches long, divided
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh orange peel or lemon zest.

Arrange the boneless skinless chicken thighs (or substitute some boneless skinless chicken breasts if you wish) in a 11 x 13 baking pans where the bottom of the pan have been lightly oiled with the olive oil, evenly divided. Keep the chicken pieces touching each other. Place whole, unpeeled garlic cloves between some of the pieces, about 6-8.


In a mixing bowl, whisk together Dijon mustard, the juice of 2 lemons, & 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary. Whisk in the olive oil. Pour the mixture over the pan of chicken. Tuck a few sprigs of remaining fresh rosemary between some of the chicken pieces in the pan. Sprinkle the orange peel or lemon zest evenly over the pan of chicken. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill 3-4 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Uncover the chicken and place the pan in the oven. Bake for 40 minutes or until the juice runs clear when a piece of chicken is pierced. Be sure to serve the sauce as well as the chicken.

Spinach-Rice Casserole
from Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen, 1977

4 cups cooked brown rice (or cooked white rice if you prefer) 
2 lbs. raw, chopped spinach (or one 10-oz pk frozen chopped spinach, thawed and extra liquid squeezed out)
2 cloves minced garlic
3 tablespoons butter (I used 2 tablespoons olive oil)
4 beaten eggs (I used the equivalent amount of egg substitute)
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons tamari (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt (More, to taste)
a few dashes each - nutmeg, cayenne
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
paprika

Saute' onions and garlic with the salt in butter (or oil). When onions are soft, add spinach. Cook 2 minutes. (Alternately, thaw and drain a 10 oz box frozen chopped spinach. Add to onion mixture, but don't cook any further.)

Combine the onion mixture with the brown rice, eggs, milk, 1 cup cheese, parsley, tamari, nutmeg, cayenne, sunflower seeds, paprika. Spread into buttered casserole and sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese on top.

Bake, covered, 25 minutes at 350 degrees F. Uncover and bake 10 more minutes.

Serves 4 - 6

Creamy Coleslaw Dressing
from The Good Home Cookbook, edited by Richard J. Perry

3/4 cup mayonnaise (or 1/2 cup mayonnaise and 1/4 cup sour cream or yogurt)
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dry mustard (I used 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch celery salt

Combine the ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. (If the dressing is too stiff, thin with a little milk if desired.)

Pour over a small head of shredded cabbage mixed with some grated carrots and, if desired, minced celery and sweet onion. Stir to coat the vegetables with the dressing. Serve salad chilled.
Serves 6-8

Monday, April 04, 2016

Birthday Book Mini-Cakes


I received a late birthday gift in March from a favorite sister. She gave me Jocelyn Delk Adams's Grandbaby Cakes books, described as "modern recipes, vintage charm, soulful memories". I had gotten the book out of the library and decided that it was likely to provide lots of good recipes for future cake baking.

One of the recipes that caught my eye were the Neopolitan Mini-Cakelettes. Combining the wonderful flavors and colors of neapolitan ice cream, there is a chocolate batter, a vanilla batter, and the author's favorite, the strawberry batter. I have a Bundt cake pan that has larger cakes, so I think of mine as mini-cakes instead of cakelettes. I changed the recipe a little so that there was only yogurt for dairy and I only had a tiny part of one of them just to see how the flavors and textures worked. Sweetie is not a big fan of cake, but he liked this one because it is nicely moist and not too sweet.

The majority of the mini-cakes are being mailed to the dear sister who gave me the book, as a thank you and treat all in one. I can just see her and her wonderful husband enjoying a cake each with coffee in the late afternoon or into the evening, their favorite time.

Don't be put off the having to divide the batter into three parts and flavoring two of those with additional ingredients. If you have a small whisk or small spatula, it will be easy and fun. Imagine serving these cute cakes to family and friends...bet they will be impressed and will enjoy these delicious little cakes.


Neopolitan Mini-Cakes
from Grandbaby Cakes by Jocelyn Delk Adams

3/4 cup ( 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature (I used non-dairy butter substitute)
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sifted cake flour (NOT all-purpose)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature (I used plain yogurt)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons strawberry jam, melted 20-30 seconds in the microwave
2-3 drops red food coloring
Confectioners' sugar to decorate (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare mini-Bundt pans with 5-cup to 6-cup capacity or one 6-cup small Bundt cake pan. (I used a six mini-Bundt cake pan and three of six small (fairy) cake cups, but part of a 6- cup muffin pan would do.) Use your choice of non-stick preparation. (I used a baking spray with flour.)

Use an electric mixer to cream the butter on high speed for 1 minute. Scrape bowl and beaters. Slowly add the granulated sugar and continue to cream them together for an additional 5 minutes, stopping every couple of minutes to scrape the bowl and beaters. The idea is to add air to the butter sugar mixture. It will be pale yellow and fluffy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping bowl and beaters after each has been incorporated.

Turn mixer to lowest speed and slowly add the flour in two batches. Add the salt and baking soda. Mix on low speed only until just combined. Scrape bowl and beaters. Add the sour cream, oil and vanilla extract, mix on low speed until just combined. Scrape bowl and beaters and mix just a few seconds to make sure batter is homogeneous.

Evenly separate the batter into 3 medium bowls (or two bowls and leave the third in the mixing bowl as I did).

Whisk the cocoa powder into one of the bowls and set aside.

Add the strawberry jam, strawberry extract, food color to another bowl and mix. The strawberry batter will be thinner than the other two. That is fine.

Place alternating tablespoons of all 3 batters into each cavity of your prepared pans, until each cavity is 2/3 full. For example, start with the vanilla, adding a tablespoon to each cavity, then add the chocolate, then the strawberry. Start again with the batters until each cavity is 2/3 full. You can always use greased muffin cups for any batter that doesn't fit in the 2/3 full Bundt cavities.

Bake for 24 - 28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a mini-cake comes out mostly clean but still moist.

Let the mini-cakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate. Let cool to room temperature. Lightly cover the mini-cakes with foil or plastic wrap so they don't dry out.


To serve sprinkle lightly with confectioners' sugar and serve.