Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Blueberry Streusal Bars

Blueberry season is here and will soon be gone. I put 20 pounds of berries into the freezer this week with the help of my mom and dad, and my husband. They are undoubtedly best fresh, preferably eaten off the bushes in the back yard, but these bars definitely qualify for runners-up. The recipe is from Fine Cooking magazine, and I haven't done a thing to it other than make it several times. (edited to add: as I typed the recipe, I realized that I have made a few minor changes.)

1 cup butter, softened
3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/3 cups light brown sugar (I used a bit less)
1 tsp table salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 large egg, separated
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk (I used the light version)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tsp grated lemon zest
2 1/2 cups blueberries, washed and drained (I've made this with equal success using frozen blueberries, slightly thawed)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 glass baking pan.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, sugar, salt and baking powder. Using your fingers, blend the butter completely into the flour mixture. Transfer 2 1/2 cups to another bowl and reserve that for the topping.

Blend the egg white with the remaining crumb mixture and press into the bottom of the pan to form a level crust. Bake the crust until it starts to form a dry top, 10 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the condensed milk, lemon juice, lemon zest and egg yok. Let this mixture stand for 5 minutes; it will be begin to thicken.

Sprinkle the blueberries evenly over the hot crust and then drop spoonfuls of the lemon mixture over the berries. Spread gently to make it more or less even, without becoming too concerned since it all levels out in the cooking. Bake until the lemon mixture just begins to form a shiny skin, 7 to 8 minutes (a wee bit longer if you use frozen berries).

Sprinkle the reserved topping mixture over the lemon-blueberry layer. Bake until the filling is bubbly at the edges and the topping is golden brown, 25-30 minutes.

Let cool, then cut into bars. I like this warm. The bars freeze well, and heated up just slightly in the microwave makes for a bit of summertime all year round. Keep in the refrigerator if you don't freeze them.
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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Chocolate Almond Cookies

I'm not overly fond of cookies unless they are hot out of the oven, or eaten raw - yes, I still eat cookie dough. But my husband likes a bit of baking around. Here's a recipe I adapted from Fine Cooking magazine. They are rich and chocolatey, but maybe a wee bit dry. I'll see what can be done about that in the future.

Chocolate Almond Cookies

1 cup flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup sliced almonds (or chopped or slivered)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder. Stir and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar (both white and brown) and beat well. Add the egg and the vanilla. Beat well.

Add the dry ingredients, mix, and then add the nuts and mix just until combined.

Drop heaping teaspoonfuls of dough about 1 1/2 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake 10 to 12 minutes - I would err on the side of less time rather than more.
Let cool for a few minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Blueberry Cream Tart

I love summer fruits. Blueberries might be up at the top of the list, followed closely by raspberries and perfectly ripe peaches. I'd say they tie for first place.

We're having dinner at our friends' place and I volunteered to bring dessert. Blueberries are wonderful any time of year, frozen, but when they are fresh I really hate to cook them. I picked these from our bushes yesterday and made the tart today. There are a few steps, but none of them are lengthy or complicated. And this can be made ahead - which for me is the hallmark of easy desserts.

Press-in Tart Crust

1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup icing sugar

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until moist crumbs form. NOTE: I had trouble today with the "moist crumbs." They didn't form. So I mixed an egg yolk with about 1 Tablespoon of water and drizzled it over until the crumbs formed.

Press into a 9 inch round tart pan with a removable bottom. Freeze about 10-15 minutes to firm everything up. Bake at 350 degrees 25-30 minutes; cool completely.

Blueberry Filling

1/2 cup sugar (or less)
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup water
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
2 Tablespoons butter
3 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Mix the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Stir in the water and bring to a boil. Stir constantly until thickened. Remove from heat and add butter and lemon juice. Stir until butter melts. Stir in blueberries and set aside to cool.

Cream Filling

1 cup whipping cream (more for top, if desired)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Whip cream with vanilla until soft peaks form. Set aside. Mix cream cheese, sugar and lemon juice until smooth and creamy. Fold in whipped cream.

Assemble the tart:

Spoon the cream filling into the bottom of the tart pan, spreading to cover the entire bottom. Layer the blueberry mixture on top. Spread additional whipped cream on top, if desired.

Best enjoyed outside with good friends.
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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Quinoa Vegetable Salad

I first tasted quinoa (pronounced "keen-wa") when I lived in Ecuador. It's one of the ancient grains cultivated by the Inca people of the Andes Highlands for over 5000 years. The UN has classified quinoa as a "super-crop." It contains more protein than any other grain. Its relatives are not other cereals, but spinach, beets, and Swiss chard. I've heard that it's related to pigweed as well. We call it a grain because of the way it's cooked and used.

I made this salad this past weekend. My husband wasn't thrilled with it, but my daughters were, and our Spanish houseguest enjoyed it. It's fresh and crunchy, similar to tabbouleh salad.

Quinoa Vegetable Salad

1 1/2 cups quinoa
3 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 Tablespoon olive oil

Combine the quinoa, water, salt and oil in a medium-large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. Most of the water will have been absorbed. I like to spread out the quinoa on a baking tray to cool quickly, but that's optional. Cool it one way or another.

1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
2 medium Roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 medium English cucumber, chopped
3 Tablespoons green onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all of the above with the quinoa. This can be served at room temperature or chilled. Other additions might include chopped black olives, or sweet red peppers.
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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Grilled Eggplant and Feta

I'm kicking myself for not taking a picture of this because it turned out surprisingly well. It was very much a "oh, this might work," and "hmmm, maybe some of this" recipe. And I'll be making it again, but I'd better write it down now while I can still remember what I did.

Grilled Eggplant and Feta Bake

2 medium eggplants
1-2 chopped tomatoes
1 T balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup (or more) feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives
olive oil
salt and pepper

Trim the ends off the eggplants and slice about 3/4 inch thick. Brush both sides with olive oil and grill over a medium hot fire until tender - about 10 minutes on each side. Check to make sure they don't burn.

Remove from the grill, let cool slightly and then chop very coarsely. I just cut the slices into quarters. Layer half of the eggplant in a shallow baking dish, sprinkle with salt and pepper and half of the feta cheese. Layer on the rest of the eggplant, then the chopped tomatoes. Drizzle the balsamic vinegar over top. Sprinkle on the olives and the remaining feta cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. (or if you use a grill safe pan, cover with foil and heat on the grill - basically you just want the tomatoes to buddy up to the eggplant)

Strawberry Lemonade

One of my favourite things to make in the summertime is strawberry lemonade. This is a concentrate and I freeze it for later. It's easy to do and tastes very refreshing.

Strawberry Lemonade Concentrate

6 cups strawberries, hulled
4 cups fresh lemon juice
6 cups granulated sugar

Puree the strawberries in a food processor or blender. I add a little of the lemon juice, if necessary to create some liquid at the beginning.

Place the puree and the sugar in a stainless steel saucepan and gently heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. You don't want to cook the strawberries, just dissolve the sugar.

Once dissolved, remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice.That's it! Mix about 1 part concentrate to 1 part water. Or use gingerale, tonic water, or sparkling water. Or even chilled white or rosé wine.
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