Sunday, January 31, 2010

Lemon-Poppy Seed Bread

"Bread" isn't quite the right word for this. Yes, the batter is baked in loaf pans, but it has a finer texture than a quick bread, it's really more of a cake, a cake that doesn't need frosting. I like the strong lemon flavor of this bread and the slight crunch and the appealing look of the poppy seeds. I served cubes of this bread to dip in the chocolate fondue, but was also very pleased to have it on hand to serve to a friend who stopped by for a cup of tea and some girl-talk. The rest of the bread was devoured for breakfast. The loaves stayed moist for as long as it took us to eat (about 4 days). If you have a lemon tree, or a neighbor with a lemon tree, you'll be pleased to know this bread is made with three large lemons. I usually bake 4 mini loaves (because I have a wonderful 4 loaf pan), but the original recipe specified baking in 2 9 x 5 loaf pans (one for you and one for the neighbor with the lemon tree). If desired extra loaves can be wrapped in foil and frozen for up to a month.

Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

3 large lemons (you'll need the zest and the juice)
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
2 1/2 cups sugar (divided use)
4 eggs at room temperature
3 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup milk (or buttermilk or sour milk)
1/4 cup sour cream (can substitute yogurt)
3 T. poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare two 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pans, or 4 mini loaf pans by buttering and flouring or by spraying with Pam for Baking. Finely grate the zest from the lemons. You'll need 3 T. Squeeze the lemons for their juice. You'll need 1/2 cup plus 1T. Set the lemon juice aside. With an electric mixer cream the butter with 2 cups of the sugar and all the lemon zest until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, mix flour, salt and baking powder together in another bowl, and the milk and the sour cream or yogurt in a third bowl. Add the eggs into the butter-sugar mixture, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce mixer speed to low. Beat in one-third of flour mixture, then one-half of milk mixture, then one-third of flour, then one-half of milk mixture, then one-third of flour mixture, beating until just combined after each addition. Gently stir in poppy seeds and one tablespoon of the freshly squeezed lemon juice. Evenly divide batter between prepared loaf pans. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for about 60 minutes (45 minutes for mini-loaves). While loaves are baking, combine reserved 1/2 cup lemon juice with remaining 1/2 cup sugar, stirring until combined. Remove pan from oven and immediately brush top with lemon mixture. Let loaves cool in rack in pans for 15 minutes, then removed from pans. Pierce loaves all over one side with long skewer, brush with lemon mixture. Repeat on all sides, and top and bottom, until all lemon mixture has been used. Cool loaves completely. Wrap in waxed paper and store in airtight container at room temperature.

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Peanut Butter Cookies

This recipe has been around for ages, I'm sure you've heard of it. It's been billed as "World's Best Peanut Butter Cookie". The ingredients are: peanut butter, egg, sugar, no flour. The cookies taste to me, and although the texture is much crisper, sort of like the inside of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. I really want to dunk the bottoms in chocolate, and if I had any left, I would. This recipe is from the cookbook I've started cooking my way through, "The 150 Best American Recipes". The original recipe did not call for salt, but I added 1/2 tsp. as suggested by the note in the cookbook. I made mini-versions of these last night to dunk in the chocolate fondue. Delicious. My friend made four large cookies from this dough and used it as a base for killer "Tin Roof Sundaes"--Peanut butter cookie, vanilla ice-cream, hot fudge sauce, salted peanuts, whipped cream. Delicious. You don't need to do anything special with them though, these cookies are delicious, just as they are.

Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two cookie sheets or line with parchment paper. With an electric mixer beat peanut butter and sugar until well combined. Lightly beat the egg and then add into peanut butter-sugar mixture along with the baking soda and optional salt. Roll approximate teaspoonsful of dough into balls and place on prepared cookie sheet 1 inch apart. Flatten the balls with two presses of a fork, making the traditional peanut butter cookie crosshatch pattern (See the first picture) or flatten the balls with the heel of your hand and press a whole roasted salted peanut in the middle-in the style of a Chinese Almond Cookie (see the second picture). Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, until puffed and a pale golden color, about 10 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes and then remove to wire rack to cool completely. Store in airtight container for up to 5 days. Makes about 4 dozen smallish cookies.

The perils of food photography!

Chocolate Fondue

Chocolate! Valentine's Day is only two weeks away. Here's a fabulous dessert suggestion. Start now collecting fondue pots, dippers, and toppers so you don't get stressed out at the last minute. This fondue is rich, dark, silky smooth, and delicious. This is not melted chocolate chips with a bit of shortening fondue, no, no, no, no, no! It's high quality chopped chocolate and cocoa powder, whipping cream, and sugar. You'll need a candy thermometer-don't stress-the thermometer is a helpful tool for getting the dipping texture right. For me, the hardest part of this undertaking was figuring out how to get ten individual fondue pots for my dinner guests last night. I thought I would use individual butter warmers, but after countless shopping trips I couldn't find any (I've seen lots of them in the stores previously, but of course I didn't need them then), but even if I did find some, I probably wouldn't have been able to afford ten of them. Sooooo....I ended up crafting my own pots out of small glass candle holders, tea lights, metal triangles, and ramekins...but they were a bit precarious (if you have any ideas to better my design, please let me know). With it getting closer to Valentine's Day perhaps butter warmers or individual fondue pots will be easier to find BUT, if you don't have a fondue pot-individual or otherwise-make the fondue anyway, the sauce can be kept warm in a crockpot, and your guest can put little puddles of chocolate sauce on their plate to dip their goodies in.

Chocolate Fondue

1 cup Scharffen Berger or Valrohna cocoa powder
1 1/4 cup bottled water
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup plus 5 T. heavy cream
5 oz. Scharffen Berger 62% semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

Place the water, sugar, and corn syrup in a saucepan and bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer, and clip a candy thermometer on the side of the pan.. Allow to mixture to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until it reaches 220 degrees on the candy thermometer. Remove pan from heat. Whisk in cocoa powder, and keep whisking until mixture is smooth. Return pan to medium heat and bring back to 215-220 degrees. Remove candy thermometer-be careful, it's hot-and then add heavy cream. Bring mixture to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in chopped chocolate, keep stirring until mixture is smooth. Pour into fondue pots or crockpot to keep warm and serve.

These are the dippers I used: cubes of Lemon-Poppyseed Tea Cake, Mini Peanut Butter Cookies, Mini Rice Krispy Treats, homemade vanilla and peppermint marshmallows, cubed Croissant; dried apricots, plums, and pineapple wedges: fresh strawberres, banana and pear slices; and mini scoops of Vietnamese Coffee Ice-cream. (Not all are pictured, I had to recreate this morning from leftovers!)

These are the toppers I used: toasted coconut, crushed pretzels, chopped peanuts, rainbow sprinkles (would have liked to have had grated white chocolate and chopped mint chocolate, too).

More good news...1). this sauce can be made ahead and reheated either on top of the stove or in the microwave. 2). I successfully doubled this recipe (for 10) and have plenty of leftovers. 3). Leftover sauce freezes well!

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Vanilla & Peppermint Marshmallows

Today I was transported back to my childhood when it was just fun to play in the kitchen. The mess was fun. The creation was fun. If the product was edible, it was magic! I made magic today (along with a big mess). I made marshmallows! It wasn't hard, just different. And the product, magic! NOW I know why marshmallows are put on top of a cup of hot chocolate. REAL marshmallows transform hot chocolate into a creamy cup of heaven. Dump the processed imitators, what are they doing on a cup of hot chocolate anyway?

You will need a heavy duty stand mixer and a candy thermometer to make this recipe successfully. Also not that marshmallows need to cure overnight before using. You're going to love these! Honest. Have fun in your kitchen today. Make magic!

The original recipe was based on one from Ina Garten, but was modified using the input from many other food blogs. This is the exact recipe and exact method I used.

Vanilla or Mint Marshmallows

3 pkgs. unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water, divided use
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
1 T. vanilla OR peppermint extract (I assume any other extract would be OK too...lemon, raspberry?!)
red or green food coloring (optional, but good to use if you are making mint marshmallows...use yellow for lemon marshmallows, etc)
Lots of powdered sugar (a pound box or so...this does NOT get beaten into the keeps the marshmallows from sticking to the pan, and then from sticking to each other)

Cover the bottom of a 13 x 9 x 2 inch pan with a layer of powdered sugar. You should not be able to see the bottom of the pan. Using your fingers, also dust the side of the pan with the powdered sugar. Combine gelatin and 1/2 cup of the water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Let this sit, at least 15 minutes, while until the next step is completed. Combine sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves, stirring gently. Take the spoon away from the pan, raise the heat to high and boil, without stirring, until syrup reaches 244 degrees (soft ball stage). Remove syrup from heat. Be careful. Put the mixer on low speed (gelatin is still in the bowl), and slowly pour the sugar syrup over the gelatin. When the mix is cool enough and thick enough not to splatter, turn the speed up to high and whip on the highest speed for 15 minutes. Add the chosen extract, beat well to combine. Add the food coloring, if using, and beat just to swirl. Here comes the hard part. With a sturdy spatula or spoon that has been dredged in powdered sugar, scoop all the marshmallow batter into the prepared pan. Wet your hands. With wet hands, press and smooth the batter to fill the pan. Smooth the top of the batter with your wet hands, and then pour a generous layer of powdered sugar over the marshmallow batter. Allow batter to dry and cure, sitting on the counter, uncovered, overnight. Run a spatula along the sides of the pan. Remove the marshmallow slab to a cutting board. Dip knife in powdered sugar in the bottom of the pan. Cut marshmallows into squares of desired size, recoating knife with powdered sugar as needed. Roll each cut side of marshmallow in the powdered sugar. Store marshmallows covered at room temperature. Marshmallows for plain eating are good for at least a week. Marshmallows for hot chocolate last far longer (since a bit of drying out is hardly noticeable).

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Orange Glazed Salmon

I make no secret of it. I like sweet. Ohhh, that's not quite true...I love sweet. Salty and umami are good, but a distant second. Sour, third...and I don't think bitter is anywhere on my map. That being said, here's my favorite recipe for broiled salmon. It's on the sweet side, see all that delicious caramelization in the picture? This can be made on a weekday, and I can guarantee it can be on your plate faster than a visit to the take out window (if you have a salmon fillet on hand). The rest of the ingredients are staples in most kitchens (everyone has coriander and cumin, right?). Marinate the fillet in orange juice for 10 minutes. Use this time to mix up the rub and preheat the broiler. Broil the marinated and rubbed salmon for 8 minutes. Dinner! See how fast that was? I love making this when I am home alone, it's so easy, so fast, and so elegant. The rub can easily be halved, and it's not expensive (so throwing out unused rub doesn't feel like a sin). If you like spicy-sweet, add some cayenne pepper.

Orange Glazed Salmon

1 orange
4 six ounce salmon fillets
4 - 6 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. black pepper (or cayenne if you like sweet-spicy rubs)
1/2 tsp. Kosher or sea salt (or 1/4 tsp table salt)

Grate the zest from the orange (a microplane is best for this), and then juice the orange. Marinate the salmon in the freshly squeeze orange juice for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the broiler and combine the orange zest with the brown sugar, chili powder, cumin, paprika, coriander, salt, and pepper. Remove salmon from orange juice. Rub with approx 2 tsp of orange-spice blend. Place salmon on the broiler pan, rub side up. Broil for 8 minutes or until salmon is cooked.

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Tropical Salsa and Baked Cinnamon Chips

I know it's a strange time of year to be posting this...but this salsa is so good I couldn't wait to share (plus my friend Julene asked me to). I found this recipe on, where I went to look for recipes to use up the two dozen kiwis I bought on a whim at Costco. This recipe used two of them plus I had to go out and buy a pineapple and a mango BUT, I will go to great lengths if I think I am onto a GREAT recipe. Thank goodness my instincts were right this time! Here's a GREAT recipe for GREAT salsa! I'm sure I will make this again, and again, and again (after all, I do have enough kiwis to make twelve batches...) The original recipe said to serve with "Cinnamon Chips", I have posted the recipe for those also (DELISH). Tonight I served the salsa to three nineteen year olds with "Spicy-Sweet Chili" Doritos (they added quite a kick--the chips did, not the kids!) All three kids did give the salsa a "thumbs up", as did 25 year old in the room. The original recipe (which I adapted) also mentioned spooning this over grilled chicken or fish...mmm, maybe later, right now, I just want to savor "as is". Later this week...Kiwi-Coconut-Lime use up a few more of the Kiwi in the kitchen

Tropical Salsa

1 cup chopped peeled fresh pineapple (in a pinch, could sub orange for pineapple)
1 cup chopped peeled fresh mango
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
2/3 cup chopped peeled fresh kiwi fruit (about 2)
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
juice of ½ fresh lime

Combine all ingredients in medium bowl. Season with salt, to taste. (Can be made 3 hours ahead--but also tastes and looks fine the next day.)

Baked Cinnamon Chips

1/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 flour tortillas
3 tbsp. butter, melted

In a small bowl combine sugar and cinnamon. Brush tortillas with melted butter. Then sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar mixture. Cut each tortilla in 8 triangles. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place tortillas sugar side up on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes or until crisp.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Fisherman's Pie

I'm from England. Shepherd's pie-a casserole of ground meat, veggies, and mashed potatoes-is my heritage (it was even my last name, Shepherd, not pie(!) for the first 21 years of my life). There's also Fisherman's Pie, you know! I'm guessing you've never made it, so here's my basic recipe. Feel free to change it up a bit to match your tastes, just as you would any Shepherd's Pie recipe. Fisherman's Pie is a good way to introduce fish to someone who claims to not like it. The bottom layer is a creamy mixture of common veggies and fish or fish and shellfish. All of that is then topped with mashed potatoes and a sprinkle of cheese. The only spices are salt and pepper. What's not to like? Remember to use a nice white fish, and make sure it's fresh. Don't cook with anything smelly. Smelly fish is not good fish.

Fisherman's Pie

2 1/2 lbs russet potatoes
2 1/2 lbs fish and/or shellfish (I use half cod and half shrimp, or half scallops and half shrimp)
1/4 cup butter
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup flour
2 1/2 cups warm milk
1/4 cup minced parsley
1 cup frozen peas
approx. 2 T. butter
approx. 1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

Peel and cube potatoes. Put into a large saucepan, cover with cold water, add a tsp of salt and bring to a boil. Boil for about 20 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile, cut fish into 1 inch chunks and set aside. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt butter in a large frying pan over medium heat on the stovetop. Add chopped onions to pan and saute for 2 minutes. Add in celery and carrots and saute for 3 more minutes. Heat milk in MW for 3 minutes. Stir flour into veggies in pan, stirring constantly over medium heat for 3 minutes (do this while milk is heating in the MW). Remove frying pan from heat and slowly stir in warm milk half a cup at a time. Completely incorporate each addition of milk-no lumps-before adding more milk. When all milk has been incorporated return mixture to burner over medium heat. Stir in 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Taste. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Stir in 1/4 cup diced parsley, fish/shellfish, and frozen peas to veggie mixture then pour the whole thing into the bottom of a 13 x 9 x 2 inch casserole pan. Drain cooked potatoes, stir in butter, milk, salt and pepper to taste and then mash. Pour the mashed potatoes over the fish/veggie mixture in the casserole dish, smooth potatoes with a small spatula. Sprinkle cheese on top of potatoes. Place in a 400 degree oven and bake for 30 minutes.

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Double Decker Pear Banana Bread

The bread is smiling! Did you ever think of mashing overripe pears, mixing them with mashed overripe bananas, and then stirring them into a spiced quick bread batter?  Me neither...until a Spiced Banana Pear Bread recipe popped up on Laura's Best Recipes, originally posted on  I took the posted recipe..., then thought I could make it better by adding the "double decker" layer from the pumpkin bread I posted last month.  Well..., easier said than done, but I finally did it!  I love the banana-pear taste, still banana, but milder.  The quality of the pears does affect the flavor of the bread.  The best loaf I made was with very overripe Royal Rivera pears, the least flavorful was made with canned pears. Now don't go expecting a cheesecake experience from the cream cheese layer, it's pleasant, but it's main purpose is to keep the bread moist (and it's fun to look at, too).  This bread needs to be refrigerated overnight (in a perfect world) before slicing, so plan ahead.

Double Decker Pear Banana Bread

For Batter
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup peeled, mashed overripe pears (canned pears can be used...if there are no more fresh pears left on the planet)
3/4 cup peeled, mashed overripe banana
1/4 cup yogurt (plain or vanilla) or sour cream
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
Optional, for decoration
thinly sliced pear slices
brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan (spray with Pam, or spread with butter and flour...I like to add a double layer of parchment paper on the bottom, too).  With an electric mixture beat butter and white sugar together until creamy (about 3 minutes) then stir in brown sugar and beat for another 2 minutes or so. Beat in eggs, one at a time until well blended.  Add vanilla, pears, bananas, yogurt or sour cream and mix well. In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt.  Stir into batter and mix until just combined.  Pour 1/2 of batter into the bottom of pan.  Pour filling layer over,if desired.  Pour rest of batter over the filling layer.  If you have an extra pear, decorate top of loaf with very thin slices and sprinkle with 1 tsp brown sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 10 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes.  Let loaf cool on rack.  Wrap cooled loaf tightly in plastic wrap and store overnight in refrigerator before slicing.

For Filling (optional)

4 oz. softened cream cheese
3 T. sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1 egg
3 T. minced crystallized ginger or 1 tsp. vanilla
2 T. self-raising flour

Soften cream cheese in MW.  Stir in sugar, sour cream, egg, and  minced crystallized ginger or vanilla. mix well. Stir in flour. Use as directed above.

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Bavarian Coffeecake

I remember getting my first bread machine and the thrill of finally being able to make edible yeast bread.  For awhile there I was making a loaf or two a week. I made all kinds of crazy concoctions, and most of them I liked. The "delay timer" enabled us to wake up to the smell of freshly baked bread and come home to freshly made pizza dough.  I was so enamored of the bread machine that I bought one for my Mom and sister for Christmas one year (they weren't so enamored-ODD!). My daughter Abby has grown up with homemade bread, pizza crust, foccacia, and coffeecakes.  This  year she asked for a bread machine for Christmas.  My mother gave her one--and no, it wasn't the one I had given her years ago (although hers is still in mint-dare I say unused?-condition.) One of my favorite bread machine cookbooks, and the source for this recipe, is "Bread Machine Magic" published in 1992. My paperback copy has been used so much it no longer has a cover or spine and has to be held together with a rubber band.  This coffeecake is delicious...sugary, cinnamonny, and creamy...all the best parts of a cinnamon roll without the extra work and the extra pound of butter. (Recipe makes 1 1/2 lbs dough)

Bavarian Coffeecake

3/4 cup of approx 1/2 water and 1/2 milk or buttermilk
1 egg
3 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp dry yeast
1/3 cup sugar mixed with 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 cup heavy cream

Place water/milk mixture, egg, flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in pan of a bread machine. Press "dough" setting and "start".  Remove dough from bread machine when machine beeps and place in a 13 x 9 x 2 inch pan.  Pat the dough to fit.  Cover pan with a clean kitchen cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled (usually 45 - 60 minutes).  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With two fingers punch deep holes all over dough.  Sprinkle the sugar-cinnamon mixture evenly over the dough (and into the indentations).  Drizzle cream over top and into indentations (you may decide to punch a few more holes at this point).  Place in preheated 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. Remove from oven, cool slightly, and serve warm. Eat quickly.  This coffeecake looses most of its magic after a few hours.

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Rustic Rosemary Bread

My webmaster's sister, Jocelyn gave me this recipe last summer. The first time I made it, I was not impressed. Hmpffff, Jocelyn's posted pictures depicted her bread as lovely and tasty. Hmpfff. So I tried the recipe again. It was wonderful! A no-knead bread, that makes TWO loaves, with VERY little mess. WOWZACOWZA! I added a little sprinkle of salt, cornmeal, and extra rosemary to the crust before baking...which I think sends it over the top. Remember that no-knead breads don't rise as much as regular bread...but rise a bit more than a foccacia. You're going to love this...

Rustic Rosemary Bread

Start 2 1/2 hours ahead to allow for two rises

2 1/2 tsp. dry yeast (or 1 pkt)
2 c. warm water (about 115 degrees)
1 T. sugar
2 tsp salt
4 c. flour
1-2 tsp. fresh rosemary plus more for topping (or 1 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed)
olive oil, corn meal, melted butter and Kosher salt

Dissolve yeast in the warm (about 115 degrees) water and sugar. Add flour, salt, and 1-2 tsp rosemary and stir until blended, do not knead! Cover and let rise for 1 hour or until double in size. Remove dough from bowl, it will be sticky, and shape into two rounds and place on a cookie sheet lightly coated in oil and sprinkled with corn meal (don't skip the corn meal, it gives the loaves a lot of character). Make your rounds tall-ish rather than round-ish (think "cupcake shape"!). Cover rounds with a towel or greased plastic wrap and let rise another hour. Brush each round with melted butter and lightly sprinkle with more rosemary, a bit of cornmeal, and Kosher salt (Yes, sprinkle the top and sides of the dough with salt-YUM). Bake @ 425 for 10 minutes, then reduce temp to 375 for 15 minutes more.

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Polly (with a special bow to Jocelyn McSpadden)

(Cream of) Celery Soup

I love celery. I love the crunch of it, I love the smell of it, I love the taste of it...and I love how it works with other ingredients rather than overpowering them. As a kid I even liked that Cream of Celery Soup in the red and white can. Imagine! My Sunset magazine arrived this morning with a recipe for Celery Soup, and it even had a "Staff Favorite" star. Can you imagine what happened next? Yep, quick drive to the store for a fresh bunch of celery. I was a bit concerned about how good the soup would be, as the only seasonings are salt and pepper, but it works! The soup is great, very mild. I like it even without the caramelized apples and sprinkle of crumbled blue cheese. I do wish I had made some crispy croutons or some crusty bread to have on the side, so I will also post a recipe my friend gave me for Rustic Rosemary Bread. I think I just might serve this as a starter for my next Dinner party. It's perfect, light, tasty, pretty, and won't interfere with the main course at all. Until then though, I will enjoy this as a light lunch.

(Cream of) Celery Soup

1 bunch of celery, roughly chopped into chunks about 1" wide (1 1/2 lbs)
1 small onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1 qt. (4 cups) chicken broth or vegetable broth (I used homemade chicken stock)
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

Combine celery, onion and broth/stock in a medium pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until celery is cooked. Meanwhile, melt butter in a small frying pan and add chopped apple. Cook apple, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until apple is caramelized. Let broth-celery mixture cool for a bit, then whirl in a blender until smooth (do this in batches, and if soup is still hot, do it in small batches). Return soup to pan, stir in half-and-half, salt and pepper. Heat gently. Ladle soup into bowls, sprinkle with caramelized apples and blue cheese. Makes 4 servings.

Based on a recipe from Sunset Magazine, Feb. 2010
Nutritional Analysis (from Sunset)

204 calories, 9 g protein, 13 g fat, 14 g. carbo, 2.8 g fiber, 515 mg sodium, 37 mg chol.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Spicy Glazed Bacon

It's sweet, it's salty, it's spicy....we're talking some serious yumminess here. Take a good quality, thick-sliced bacon, sprinkle it with light brown sugar, cayenne and black pepper, bake until sizzling hot, crispy and sticky...ohmyYYY. My friend Jamie said, "It was like candy in bacon form. I thought I was dreamin' ...."

Spicy Glazed Bacon

8 slices thick-sliced good quality bacon (I use the Applewood smoked bacon from Costco)
3 T. light brown sugar
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or more, I use a heaping 1/4 tsp)
1/4 tsp black pepper (or more)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lay bacon on a rack on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. While bacon is baking, mix brown sugar with cayenne and black pepper. Make sure peppers are evenly distributed in the brown sugar. Remove bacon from oven. Sprinkle each slice with 2 tsp of the brown sugar/peppers mix. Bake for an additional 10 minutes. Turn bacon over, sprinkle with any leftover sugar mixture (if desired) and bake for an additional 3-5 minutes, or until crisp. Watch bacon carefully--the bacon can quickly overheat and burn. Cooking times are all approximate...the thickness of your bacon will make a big difference in the cooking times...use your best judgment and keep your eye on it for the last few minutes.

This recipe was adapted from a one published in "The 150 Best American Recipes"

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Pear Berry Pie

I love pie..., but I am not very good at making the baked-in-the-oven kind. The crust causes me the most trouble. Something always seems to go wrong. I under-cook the bottom crust on a regular basis. When my food processor died a few years back I started using the red box of Pillsbury rolled pie crusts. I have a new food processor now, but I haven't gone back to making my own crust yet. It's the filling that makes a pie for me, mmmmmm... warm, sweet, dreamy, fruity pie filling... Is there any better dessert for the cold winter months? Fortunately, I have a lot of recipes for GREAT pies that focus on fabulous fillings. This is one of my favorites. Make it quick while pears are still in season! If you have a great pie crust recipe, use it. If not, unroll some of those Pillsbury pie crusts and master the pie filling, which is the best part of the pie anyway...

Pear Berry Pie

Single pie crust, baked in a 9 inch pie pan and cooled

For Filling
3 lbs. firm but ripe pears (I use a variety-usually 2 each of 3 varieties)
1/2 cup sugar (divided use)
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice (have used lemon before, too...just up the sugar by a tablespoonful or so)
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups fresh blueberries or raspberries or combination (can use frozen, but fresh results in a less mushy product)
1/3 cup plus 1 T. flour

Peel, core and chop pears into 3/4 inch chunks. Combine pear chunks, orange juice salt, and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a large frying pan. Saute until pears are tender, stirring often, about 6 minutes. Transfer pears to a large bowl and let cool. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. While the pie crust and the pears are cooling, prepare the streusel. Stir berries, flour, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar into pear mixture. Toss to blend. Pour filing into cooled crust and then sprinkle with streusel topping. Press down slightly. Place pie in preheated 350 degree oven and bake for an hour. If streusel gets too brown, cover lightly with foil. Cool pie on rack until lukewarm. Cut into wedges and serve, which I like to do with a blog of freshly whipped cream. Serves 8.

For Streusel
1 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar (dark is best)
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup cold butter
1/4 tsp salt

Put all ingredients into a food processor and using on/off turns process until coarse crumbs form. Alternately, using a pastry blender (or fingers) work cold butter (grated or cut into small chunks) into flour, salt and brown sugar. Stir in chopped nuts. OR, melt the butter, pour over flour, sugar, salt and chopped nuts. Stir with fork until large crumbs form. (texture is a bit different on finished pie, but I enjoy it)

Original recipe is from

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Polly's Seafood Chowder

It was my turn to host book club tonight. The book was "Ahab's Wife", which I knew we had to discuss over a bowl of chowder and a slice of pie. Not having made Seafood Chowder before, I began a search for a great recipe. I found one in the book "The Book Club Cookbook" by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp (which actually had a whole chapter on "Ahab's Wife") and another I found on "Laura's Best Recipes" attributed to Chef David Wells. I made one, which was good, but not great, then I made that one again, took some stuff out, added parts of the second recipe plus some crab and creamed corn, adjusted the method...and "Wallaaaaaa" a GREAT Seafood Chowder! Really, it is good. Everyone at book club said so!!! I am quite proud of it. This recipe makes a vat of chowder, and the leftovers reheat very well in the microwave-the seafood doesn't get overcooked and rubbery.  LOVE this recipe.

Polly's Seafood Chowder

6 slices of bacon, cooked crisply and crumbled (apple smoked if possible)
2-3 Tablespoons fat from cooked bacon (if you can't bear it, use olive oil)
1 cup diced onions (can sub some shallots for the onions-I used one and then made up a cup with the onion)
1 cup diced celery
2 cloves minced garlic
2 bay leaves
4 cups chicken broth
1 bottle clam juice (or seafood stock)
1 cup white wine
1.5 lbs (total) of Yukon Gold and Red potatoes, diced (I used half of each)
1 cup diced carrots
2 bay leaves
½ tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried tarragon
1 ½ tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
3 - 4 green onions, diced
1 lb. firm white fish, cut into small cubes (snapper, halibut, cod-I used cod)
1 lb. raw scallops, cut into small pieces, if large
1 lb. raw shelled shrimp, cut into halves or thirds
3 cups frozen corn (can substitute 1 can creamed corn for 1 cup of frozen corn)
16 oz. lump crab meat (found in the refrigerated section of grocery stores...Lucky and Costco carry it in San Jose)
2 cups half and half or whipping cream (I used the whipping cream. Bad Polly, bad Polly)

Set aside cooked and crumbled bacon. (I save only the meaty parts and discard all the fat) In bacon grease left in pan (remove excess if you have more than 3T) sauté onions, shallots and celery for about 7 minutes. Stir in garlic, bay leaves, chicken broth, clam juice, white wine, finely diced potatoes and diced carrots. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes or until potatoes are cooked. Remove bay leaves. Remove one-half of mixture (4 -5 cups) and blend or puree until smooth. Return puree to pan with non-pureed mixture. Stir in thyme, tarragon, salt, pepper, corn, and creamed corn (if using). Can be made up to this point and refrigerated overnight (Which I recommend because it gives the flavors a chance to meld, and gives you the chance to skim excess hardened fat of surface before continuing). Bring base to a simmer and then continue. Stir in green onions, diced fish, scallops, shrimp, corn and half-and-half or whipping cream. Bring to boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in crab and reserved cooked and crumbled bacon. Let chowder sit for 10 minutes before serving.

This makes a whole heck of a lot of chowder...3 qts...which is 24 cups. If you have seafood lovers in your circle, then it's about 12 hearty servings. I have found that leftovers reheat very well in the MW. YUM!

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

Everyone seems to have a favorite Blueberry Muffin recipe. I did too, a different one...until I started making these. It's the cup of oats and the "just hidden in there" lemon hint that sets these Blueberry Muffins above all the other Blueberry Muffins out there. I just made a batch this morning, I know what I am talking about!, muffin, rain...on a Monday Holiday.

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

1 cup fresh blueberries, mixed with 1 T. flour (I have used frozen blueberries with no adverse effects)
1 cup flour
1 cup oats (old fashioned is the best)
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup canola oil (or ¼ cup oil and ¼ cup applesauce)
1 large egg
1 T. lemon--or vanilla--extract (yep, 1 T. of lemon extract...and yet the lemon flavor is not overly pronounced)
½ cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

Optional sugar or raw sugar, and additional 1-2 T. raw oats to top the muffins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In first (smallest) bowl, mix blueberries with 1 T flour and set aside. In second (next smallest) bowl, soak oats in buttermilk. In third (and largest) bowl, mix flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder. In fourth (second largest bowl) bowl, mix oil and egg until well combined, add lemon or vanilla extract, and then pour in oats and buttermilk. Stir to combine, then add in white and brown sugars. Pour the oat mixture into the flour mixture and stir just to moisten. Gently fold in flour coated blueberries. Spoon batter into paper lined muffin cups. Sprinkle tops with sugar and raw oats. Bake for 25 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.

My friend Adele did a nutritional analysis on this muffin. Result...not too bad, as far as muffin goes. In fact, compares favorably with muffins in the "healthy" category.
and here's the nutritional analysis (based on using applesauce for half the oil)

Nutrition Facts
Amount Per Serving Calories 177 Calories from Fat 51

% Daily Value Based on a 2000 calorie diet
Total Fat 5.7g 9%
Saturated Fat 0.9g 4%
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 18mg 6%
Sodium 179mg 7%
Total Carbohydrates 28.1g 9%
Dietary Fiber 1.4g 6%
Sugars 14.2g
Protein 3.4g
Vitamin A 1% • Vitamin C 2% Calcium 6% • Iron 6%

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First Trial Post

Going to try and have an active blog along with my facebook page. We'll see. I don't know what I am doing...and not sure I have the brain power to figure it out...thank goodness I have friends with know-how. HI RATTIE!